Saturday, March 19, 2016

You Know Jews -- They're Only After That One Thing (Part II)

Back in 2009, I wrote a post commenting on the metacontroversy surrounding the appointment of Chas Freeman as chair of the Obama Administration's National Intelligence Council. Freeman was a controversial selection, along a variety of axes. One reason was that he had supposedly criticized Israel in a way that rankled certain pro-Israel voices (I don't recall the nature of his comments, and they're not relevant for this post). But other reasons also existed -- he was not particularly well liked by many in the human rights community, who viewed him as too sympathetic to authoritarian regimes like China and Saudi Arabia.

The issue, though, was that even when Jewish critics framed their concerns about Freeman in terms of the latter issue -- mentioning Israel in passing or not at all -- many commentators were explicit in basically saying the critics were lying. Sure, they said they were concerned about human rights in China -- but that's just a smokescreen. Really, it's Israel that's motivating them. I mean, what else motivates Jews? They're only after that one thing.

All of this predates the "pinkwashing" fad currently popular among some segments of the left. But in many ways, the claims of pinkwashing embody the same basic instinct: that Jews only care about one thing, and that when they purport to care about something else it's a facade designed to distract everybody from their true agenda.

Nominally, "pinkwashing" refers to a specific practice of the Israeli government to promote a "gay friendly" image as a means of distracting progressives from the occupation. Even along that narrow dimension I think this is significantly overstated as a tactic worth commenting on -- it is an argument favored by those activists for whom thinking two thoughts at once is two too many. But more importantly, as a political tool "pinkwashing" has stretched way beyond these relatively narrow boundaries to encompass virtually any Jewish political discussion of any variety -- no connection to the Israeli government required. Commenting on the "Creating Change" fiasco where protesters stormed a reception hosted by a North American and an Israeli LGBT NGO, I wrote that
[e]ven if there were some evidence that the Israeli government is actively seeking to leverage its relatively strong LGBT record to "cover" for the occupation (and I continue to think that's oversold), it's become abundantly clear that the "pinkwashing" label has taken a decidedly conspiratorial edge. Any LGBT organization in Israel, or any Jewish LGBT organization anywhere, that is not avowedly anti-Zionist (which is to say, any of substantial size) will simply be asserted to be part of a grand Zionist pinkwashing plot. At that stage, the "pinkwashing" charge has become anti-Semitic root to branch.
This week, we saw perhaps the apex of this conspiratorial, exclusionary deployment of "pinkwashing". Black trans activist Janet Mock was invited to give a talk at Brown University. She is not Israeli. Her talk was not going to be about Israel. Her invitation was extended by (among others) a Jewish group that takes no position on Israel. The event was to be hosted at the campus Hillel.

Over 100 Brown students signed a petition accusing the proceedings of being a form of "pinkwashing". Mock canceled the event.

This is past the point of parody*: The non-Israeli giving a talk not on Israel whose hosts include a Jewish group which does not take a stance on Israel, with Hillel providing a venue.  Basically, if Hillel hosts anyone on anything it's a facade to cover up Israeli crimes. Because why else would Hillel host someone except to make a point (or avoid making a point) about Israel? What else motivates the Jews? With them, you know it must be a plot.

I hope my tone doesn't understate the seriousness of the problem here. The petition sought to create a norm in which Jews are effectively (certainly presumptively) excluded from deliberative projects along all fronts. This is no trivial thing. The legitimation of the politics of ethnic or religious exclusion should rightfully terrify us -- not the least because Muslim persons are enduring an entire presidential campaign premised around it. The Jewish students at Brown targeted by the petition certainly understood what was at stake:
This petition does, however, make us ask: given that Hillel is the center for Jewish life on this campus — with a mandate to support the interests and meet the needs of a very diverse constituency of Jewish students on College Hill (ranging widely in their political, religious, and cultural inclinations) — does simply engaging in a Jewish space render one unfit to do justice work? 
The discussion of lateral violence within the LGBTQ+ community itself is central to this year’s topic. In challenging the legitimacy of our social justice work based on the group’s Jewish affiliation, the petition seeks to undermine our right to intersectional engagement and implies a need for us to cede spaces and relinquish causes that are very much ours. 
Exceptionally well said. But there is a trend here, and a scary one at that. We saw it when student government officials at UCLA tried to block a Jewish candidate simply because she was Jewish (and therefore biased). We saw it at Vassar when funding for Jewish groups to go to a Haaretz conference in New York were delayed because Jews meeting Israeli Jews was alleged to contradict the campus anti-racism policy. We saw it at Creating Change, when the conference organizers initially said that hearing from North American and Israeli queers would be too "divisive". And we're not that far removed from the days when campus Jewish Societies were being banned (there was a flurry of such activity in Britain in the 70s), because non-Jews did not accept the legitimacy of Jewish voices in multicultural dialogue.

The Brown Jewish community asked "does simply engaging in a Jewish space render one unfit to do justice work?" The answer they got was clear: If you're in a Jewish space, you're doing one thing and one thing only. And if you try to claim otherwise -- well, you know how Jews are.

* I keep on describing things this way, but I'm beginning to suspect that I've simply miscalibrated my mental line between reality and farce .

Thursday, March 17, 2016

"Advice and Consent" as Hendiadys

I am an admitted skeptic of English as a discipline; particularly when it seeks to intrude on other (e.g., my) academic domains and argue that literary theory is the key to understanding some legal dilemma or constitutional controversy. But I have to say that today I attended a fantastic workshop featuring UCLA Law Professor Samuel Bray and his forthcoming article "'Necessary AND Proper' and 'Cruel AND Unusual': Hendiadys and the Constitution." It actually did a great job of making me rethink a number of knotty problems of constitutional interpretation.

The underlying paper is excellent, not the least of which is that it taught me how to pronounce "hendiadys" (actually, pretty much as it's spelled: "hen-DIA-u-dus"). A hendiadys is special case of the written construction "X and Y". Normally, that's a conjunction referring to two separate things. So if I ask for "eggs and milk", I want two items purchased. If I write that an applicant must be "college educated and have four years of relevant experience," I've put down two qualifications.

In a hendiadys, however, "X and Y" refers to a single concept. If I say that my steak is "nice and juicy", I'm not giving two characteristics ("nice" and "juicy"), I'm giving it one -- "nice and juicy" refers to a single attribute. Likewise with common expressions like "rough and tumble" or "high and mighty." These refer to one thing rather than two.

As the title suggests, Bray applies this concept to two "X and Y" constructions in the Constitution which have typically been given the standard conjunctive read. Under this view, to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment a punishment must be both "cruel" AND "unusual" -- two criterion , of which both must be met. More recently the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision did a similar thing with regard to "necessary and proper" -- Chief Justice Roberts' opinion indicated that the law might have been "necessary" to effectuate Commerce Clause ends, but it separately analyzed whether it was "proper" and concluded it was not.

What's wrong with this? Sometimes the conjunctive reading leads to perplexing results, or doesn't seem to match our understanding of what the text means, or just seems awkward. Consider "necessary and proper". Bray observes first that, at the time of the founding, the term "necessary and proper" was almost always treated and discussed as a single term -- there are very few contemporaneous sources that sought to disaggregate them into two distinct qualifications. Moreover, "necessary" is a pretty hard word -- while people have tried to argue that it can mean "convenient" or "useful", that's far from the natural reading. Yet if necessary does means something closer to "indispensable", what non-superfluous work could "proper" do -- presumably any law which is unavoidably required to achieve a licensed congressional power is also a "proper" law? It'd be a weird thing to write (and weirder still since the man who inserted "and proper" into the clause, James Wilson, was a fierce proponent of a strong national government and would have been unlikely to have sought a further limitation on congressional power beyond "necessary").

As a hendiadys, however, "necessary and proper" modulate each other, creating a single hybrid requirement that evokes attributes of each. "Proper" tempers "necessary", suggesting that it is something  closer to "useful" or "convenient". But "necessary" in turn alters "proper", suggesting that a law must have some non-trivial bearing on an articulated congressional power to be valid. Bray has fuller arguments for this in his paper, and I encourage you to read it.

Another potential example of a constitutional hendiadys which springs to my mind is "advice and consent" -- as in the President's power to appoint Supreme Court Justices "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate." This has obviously become quite timely with the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and the position of many Senate Republicans that they will refuse to even consider his (or any other) nomination in favor of whomever the next President selects.

Liberals have, of course, cried foul, and some have tried to argue that the Senate has breached its "advice and consent" obligation (these are, as you might expect, arguments whose partisan affiliations tend to hew closely to who's sitting in the Oval Office). These arguments, as a formal matter, strike me as a weak (Michael Ramsey at the Originalism Blog gives a good rundown why). Yet I do think the controversy helps illuminate some surprising ambiguities in "advice and consent", which I do think is best read as a hendiadys.

Of course, it is perfectly grammatical to read it conjunctively: for a judicial appointment to be confirmed, the Senate must provide (a) its advice and (b) its consent. But this duo of obligations rings very odd when you think about it: we seem to pay very little attention to the "advice" part. If the President selects his nominee with zero input from the Senate and the Senate proceeded to immediately confirm the nomination by unanimous vote, would the constitution have been violated? I'm highly skeptical. "Advice" seems superfluous.

"Consent", for its part, is like "necessary" -- it's a hard word. It denotes agreement, and it does not suggest any restriction on the bases for which the Senate can withhold its approval. If the Constitution simply said "the President, with the consent of the Senate, shall appoint" justices of the Supreme Court, it would seem to place the two branches on equal footing with respect to judicial nominations -- the President and the Senate must come to a mutual agreement on who goes on the Supreme Court, with both branches possessing equally legitimate authority to veto the choice.

Yet this doesn't track the norms of judicial nominations at all. For nearly all of American history, the Senate has never acted as if it could withhold consent to a presidential nominee simply because there was someone else they liked better, or because they'd rather their party was in control of the White House. Their confirmation role has been much weaker -- withholding consent only for unqualified nominees, or perhaps nominees so ideologically extreme as to demand an exception. The default was heavily titled in favor of the President -- the Senate will not reject judicial nominees simply because, on balance, it'd prefer someone else to be making the choice; it acknowledges a default presumption (and a relatively strong one at that) that the President should be able to appoint the nominee of his choosing. And it is the breach of that historical practice that is why today's liberals are so aggrieved: the Senate's position right now (refusing to confirm any nominee while it waits a year for a new president to take office) is, as a historical matter, an unprecedented deployment of the "advice and consent" power.

Reading "advice and consent" as a hendiadys helps put some constitutional muscle behind that instinct. Just as "necessary" and "proper" modulate each other, the term "advice" tempers "consent." It suggests that the consent power the Senate possesses ought to be an advised consent -- not an automatic consent, not an unconsidered consent, but still a consent that places the Senate in a subordinate, advisory position. This tracks well with the historical practice identified above, wherein Senators have not acted as if they can simply withhold consent for no other reason than the preference for a different candidate. The Senate, historically, has treated "advice and consent" as a hendiadys; they have voluntarily agreed to exercise the power in a way that acknowledges the president's superordinate position in the nominating position.

None of this means I think there is any actionable case against Senate Republicans for refusing to utilize their consent power in an "advised" fashion (if for no other reason than it's an obvious political question). But I do think reading this clause as a hendiadys better gets at how the executive and Senate have generally conceptualized their respective roles in the nomination process across American history, and so gives some credence to the idea that liberal objectors to the blanket obstructionism of Senate Republicans are appealing to a norm with genuine constitutional roots.

Of course, these are my thoughts less than 24 hours after reading Professor Bray's paper. His argument, with respect to the two clauses he focuses on, is much more polished than mine. And, as I say, it is an article well worth reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Trump Offers The Finest Smears

Q: If someone like Mr. Trump can call you, an acclaimed and noted neurosurgeon, as someone who lacks intellect or is a child molester, doesn't that alarm you as to how he can portray other people in this country as well, and use the same rhetoric? 
A: Well, you know, he said it was political, he was concerned about the fact that he couldn't shake me. Look, I understand politics, particularly the politics of personal destruction. And you have to admit to some degree, that it did work. A lot of people believed him.
"You act like him being a destructive liar is somehow a bad thing." This speaks volumes about the current pathology of the Republican Party.

Dear Leader

I had no idea that, on his Twitter account, Mitch McConnell goes by "Leader McConnell":

I have no further comment on this, but that seemed worth noting on its own.

Garland Isn't a Kennedy, He's a Breyer

And the nominee is ... Merrick Garland, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals! (Looks like my SCOTUS pick streak comes to an end -- but two out of three ain't bad). Garland wasn't the first choice of many liberals, but I think in retrospect it is highly likely that many of the younger guns (Kelly, Srinivasan, etc.) calculated that they have a better shot in the future then in this crap-shoot of an election year confirmation attempt. Garland, who's 63 years old, almost certainly knew it was now or never.

And with respect to liberal concerns, look -- Garland isn't a Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But he's not a Anthony Kennedy either. He'll be a reliable member of the Court's liberal bloc. There's a reason he's been the primary feeder of liberal Supreme Court clerks for years now. Replacing Justice Scalia with Justice Garland would be a tremendous move forward.

The other thing to say about Garland is that he really puts Senate Republicans in a pickle. It's not just that, as Chuck Schumer put it, if Garland can't garner bipartisan support than nobody can. It's how stark of a choice he puts in front of Republicans. The obstruct at all costs approach puts two outcomes on the horizon: either whichever 39 year old liberal ingenue Hillary Clinton nominates after 12 months of Republicans insisting that "this election is when the people decide!", or Donald Trump putting forward Judge Judy. Suddenly, a 63 year old conventional Democrat doesn't seem that bad, does it?

In any event, congratulations to Judge -- hopefully soon-to-be Justice -- Garland, who is a fantastic jurist and would make a great addition to the Court. May your confirmation process be smooth as is conceivably possible in these turbulent times.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Against Coalitional Intersectionality

In the Forward, Sigal Samuel contributes a new entry to the debates regarding intersectional discourse and the place of Mizrahi Jews inside of it. It is a worthy addition, and as one might suspect I'm pleased to see it in one of my favorite media outlets. I highly recommend reading it, and I hope that we see more articles and columns in this vein.

That said, Samuel's article does finally prompt me to explain why I will continue to fight against the definition of "intersectionality" as "the idea that different forms of oppression are linked" such that, for example, "Jews must stand in solidarity with Palestinians because our liberation is intrinsically tied to theirs." I dub this "coalitional intersectionality" -- that an anti-racist organization cannot "just" fight racism but must also align with anti-sexism organizations and anti-colonial organizations and so forth (as Samuel puts it: "standing up for victims of sexism and homophobia should also mean that we stand up for, say, victims of Israeli state violence.").This may well be a worthy sentiment. But, I will argue, it's not "intersectionality" -- indeed, often it actively undermines of intersectional analysis. And while I've become resigned to accept this is a losing battle, because I think "intersectionality" as I understand it to be an incredibly valuable category I think indulging in the conflation causes us to lose something very rich and quite difficult to replace.

Intersectionality, as I view it (drawing directly from Crenshaw), is about the interaction of multiple (marginalized) identities and how that interaction is not reducible to each constituent element. As applied to Mizrahim, it critiques the view that one can the oppression of Middle Eastern Jews simply by fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism -- that is, that if we fix the oppression of "Jews" and fix the oppression of "Middle Easterners" we will by definition resolve the oppression of "Jewish Middle Easterners". Instead, it suggests that the intersection of Jew and Middle Eastern creates a cluster of experiences and wrongs which are not adequately encompassed by simply adding "Jew" and "Middle Eastern" together.

My frustration with the "coalitional" model of intersectionality that is being deployed in activist circles, therefore, is that it actually exacerbates the problems that intersectionality was designed to address -- it contributes to the erasure of those parts of multiply-marginalized groups that are not assimilable into either of the constituent identities. In a sense this shouldn't surprise: in many respects intersectionality began as a rebellion against the uncritical demands of the "coalition" -- that black women must subordinate their discrete interests as black women for the benefit of the sisterhood or the good of the black community (where "sisterhood" was defined by white women and "black community" by African-American men). The basic problem identified wasn't that feminist and anti-racist organizations didn't work together, it was that their agendas were set by the dominant categories within each group and so even when they were "allies" the resultant alliance still was non-inclusive of the black woman marginalized within each.

Coalitional intersectionality starts from the problem that, say, feminist organizations didn't sufficiently attune themselves to racism, but it presents the remedy for double marginalization as the white women saying "okay, we'll be anti-racist as that's defined by 'the black community'" (aka, the black men). Perhaps the black men say in turn "okay, we'll be anti-sexist as that's defined by 'the sisterhood'") (aka, the white women). This doesn't cure the intersectional problem, it reinscribes it by perpetuating the marginal status of black women in both communities. In the Mizrahi case, simply declaring that we must "fight anti-Semitism" and "fight anti-Arab racism" fails to acknowledge that the meaning of fighting "anti-Semitism" or "anti-Arab racism" simpliciter is defined by how the dominant castes within those groups (Ashkenazi Jews, Gentile Arabs) conceptualize the oppression and articulate its remedies. Such conceptualizes can and often are quite distant from how internal minorities, like Mizrahim, conceptualize their own situation.

For example, Zionism is often presented as a means of fighting anti-Semitism -- the creation of a Jewish national homeland liberates Jews from being in a position of supplication towards others. However, if the mid-20th century Mizrahi activists Samuel cites are right (more on this in a second) then Zionism really is only doing that for Ashkenazi Jews -- it is not attentive to the particularities of the Mizrahi experience, it doesn't even liberate them as Jews and certainly not as Middle Easterners. If we flip over and describe the relevant form of fighting anti-Arab racism as anti-Zionism, the same problem emerges -- abolishing the Jewish state is a way of curing discrimination against Gentile Middle Easterners; it speaks very little to the marginalization Mizrahi Jews experience even as Middle Easterners let alone as Jews. Once one thinks about it, it is highly likely that a program for liberating Mizrahi Jews will not stem from simply adding the (Ashkenazi) Jewish liberation project to the (non-Jewish) Middle Eastern liberation project (even if such a merged project was coherent). It almost certainly will be a unique politics that is not neatly encompassed either in conventional Zionist or anti-Zionist frames -- that is to say, which resists the pre-existing "coalitions" in play.

Consequently, what actually tends to happen when intersectionality turns coalitional is that one side of the identity is sublimated into the other. If we erase the distinctively Jewish elements of Mizrahi experience, we can act as if we are advocating on their behalf simply by virtue of pursuing a program combating anti-Arab discrimination as conceptualized by and implemented through non-Jewish Middle Easterners -- e.g., through an anti-Zionist program. The "Mizrahi" part of the equation drops out; fighting for Middle Eastern Jews is not viewed as different from fighting for Middle Easterners generally, and fighting for Middle Easterners generally is constructed via the interests of the dominant elements within the category "Middle Eastern" (which are not Jewish)  It's the mirror image of the attempt to elide the "Mizrahi" part of "Mizrahi Jew" among some Zionists -- if we combat anti-Semitism (viewed through an Ashkenazi lens), we effectively liberate Mizrahi Jews (who are, in effect, simply "Jews", which is to say, Ashkenazi Jews). Both are instantiating the same exact wrong upon Mizrahim -- erasing them at the point of their difference from their putative ally (if I focus on the former case, it's because folks doing the latter tend not to even conceptualize themselves as being "intersectional" in the first place).

This is why those few persons who do attempt to incorporate Mizrahim into a (coalitional) intersectional lens do so by immediately reaching for those who identified Mizrahi oppression as stemming from Zionism. If Mizrahi Jewish and Palestinian oppression can be merged under a single metric, then the tension dissipates and the coalition becomes easy -- it is as if there is no distinction at all between that which ails Middle Eastern Jews and Middle Eastern non-Jews.

The problem, of course, is that most Mizrahim don't conceive of their situation in that manner. Some people proceed then to the simple brute erasure of Mizrahi Jewish difference -- either by ignoring them as a category outright, or by only accepting the legitimacy of Mizrahi voices who align with their understanding of anti-Arab oppression (that is, by delegitimizing any Mizrahi voices which are distinct from the dominant Arab chord). By contrast, my Berkeley colleague Smadar Lavie, who herself is a Mizrahi activist seeking to promote this sort of anti-Zionist Mizrahi-Palestinian alliance, is honest in admitting that such endeavors today have a very small constituency within the Mizrahi community. Where she errs is in saying that the inability to establish a Mizrahi-Palestinian coalition demonstrates that intersectionality is (for the time being) a dead-end. It's not a dead end because enabling coalitions is not the purpose of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a method for identifying forms of marginalization which otherwise would escape the eye. It is wholly expected, and consistent with intersectionality's roots, that there would be distinct problems experienced Jewish Middle Easterners that were not reducible to, and might be sharply in tension with, the politics promoted by non-Jewish Middle Easterners (or, of course, non-Middle Eastern Jews).

In this light, it is worth exploring why, exactly, a Mizrahi-Palestinian alliance has not been forthcoming. Samuel notes, for example, that the Israeli national project constructed "Jew" and "Arab" as binary categories, encouraging Mizrahim to distance themselves from an "Arab" identity as a means of solidifying their place in the Jewish state. Moreover, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews are often deeply mistrustful of the (Ashkenazi-dominated) Israeli left, which unfortunately was significantly responsible for their marginalization during the initial wave of Mizrahi and Sephardic arrivals following Israeli's independence. It has been the Israeli right, by and large, which has facilitated their inclusion in Israeli society while the overwhelmingly Ashkenazi Israeli left continues to think of them as backwards, reactionary, and tribalistic.

These examples carry legitimate weight, but it would be wrong to assume that but-for (Ashkenazi) Jewish malfeasance Mizrahi Jews and Arabs would be thick as thieves. Certainly, the circumstances surrounding the removal -- effectively expulsion -- of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews from the Arab world plays no small role in their less-than-coalitional outlook. And considerable swaths of the project of constructing an Arab national or pan-national identity have come at the expense of Jews and in opposition to Jews; at the very least they've rarely been encompassing of Jews on equal terms. As Sephardic Jewish researcher Mijal Britton argues, the failure to adequately reckon (often, the outright denial of) with this raw history of oppression Mizrahi Jews experienced in Arab countries makes it extraordinarily difficult for Sephardic and Mizrahi to act as a "bridge" between Jews and Arabs, much less view themselves as in "coalition" with Palestinians.

The result is that proponents of the coalitional model typically exhibit ignorance of the actual conditions and perspectives of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews in favor of an imagined harmony of interests among all "Arabs" (non-Jew and Jew alike) that is conducive to collective action. A deeper investigation demonstrates that it is neither surprising nor a product of "false consciousness" that Mizrahim do not generally believe that an anti-Zionist program will do them any good; even as many very much believe that the Israeli state as currently constituted is insufficiently respectful to and attentive towards their unique histories, cultural heritages, and political priorities. Such a political standpoint does not fit neatly into either the (Ashkenazi) Jewish or (non-Jewish) Middle Eastern "coalition".

A good intersectional theorist is not intimidated by this. The entire point of intersectionality, after all, is to bring such issues to the surface when too often they remain submerged underneath the dominant discourses of "Jew" (as defined by Ashkenazim) or "Middle Eastern" (as defined by Muslim or sometimes Christian Arabs). I would suggest that an intersectional approach is in fact essential to ensuring that Mizrahi Jewish perspectives are given an adequate airing. And done properly, an intersectional lens attunes us to seeing how our own narratives -- even when we think of them as anti-oppression or liberatory, often do not encompass those outgroups within outgroups (like Mizrahi Jews), and how instead of seeking to engage with such groups in an egalitarian fashion we instead seek to brute-force them into the frames we've already established.

But the coalitional intersectionalist can't look past the fact that the Mizrahim are poor candidates for a "coalition" with other groups who are already members in good standing. Their interests in fact do not align nicely with the groups already included in the pantheon,  they do not see themselves in terms which parallel the conceptions that dominate their constituent elements. To incorporate them into a coalition that is already in solidarity with (Ashkenazi) Jews would require significant alterations to the project -- incorporating Arab and Middle Eastern cultural practices and heritage, attacking head on discrimination Mizrahim face in Jewish communal settings inside and outside of Israel. And by the same token, to incorporate them into a coalition that is already in solidarity with (non-Jewish) Middle Easterners would likewise problematize key elements of that endeavor -- recognizing that Zionism is viewed as an essential liberatory element of some Middle Easterners' life experiences, acknowledging and fighting for the equal status of Jews as Middle Easterners, with equal entitlement to determine what that means. Such work would be tremendously difficult; and there is little evidence that non-Mizrahim (Jews or non-Jews) are willing to budge all that much in deference to Mizrahi differentiation. In essence, Mizrahim are welcome into the coalition on the non-negotiable condition that they not challenge any other member of the pack -- even when some of those members are directly responsible for facilitating Mizrahi marginalization. It is no wonder that Mizrahim refuse to enter on such terms.

So what is to be done? Coalitional intersectionalists are at a loss. At best they ignore Mizrahim outright and go about their coalitional work with those groups that are more easily assimilable. At worst they actively demand the exclusion of most Mizrahi voices as harmful to the good of the coalition, or pluck out those few whose perspectives can be incorporated into the preexisting coalitional politics with minimal stress. In neither case is Mizrahi marginalization adequately addressed; indeed, it is perpetuated in both.

This is not intersectionality. This is the very thing intersectionality was trying to combat. And it's why I'm deeply troubled by the activist trend to reduce "intersectionality" into the project of building coalitions.

The Sweet Polls with the Bitter

Last December, I posted some disheartening poll numbers out of Palestine which suggested that strong majorities  opposed a two-state solution, opposed an egalitarian one-state solution even more than they opposed a two-state solution, and supported stabbing and other terrorist attacks. A new batch of polling provides better news, at least in the West Bank.

A majority of West Bank Palestinians oppose stabbing attacks on Israelis (an overwhelming majority of Gazans support them). Nearly 70% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution (Chemi Shalev observes that this figure is higher than that prevailing among Israelis) compared to a quarter favoring an egalitarian one-state solution. Moreover, they have strong negative views about both Hamas and ISIS.

Of course, one takeaway from this poll is that it matters, a lot, how one frames one's questions (something any poll expert could tell you). It also suggests deep divides between the outlook of Gaza versus West Bank Palestinians. One has to note that the blockaded Gazans are consistently more radicalized than their comparatively freer West Bank comrades, and that would seem to indicate that the blockade is a failure in its goal of breaking Hamas and creating a more hospitable atmosphere towards negotiation and co-existence. Of course, there's a chicken-and-egg problem here -- defenders of the blockade will no doubt argue that it is necessary because Gaza is a hotbed of radicalism and terrorism -- but to me that is an indicator that the blockade's success is an unfalsifiable proposition.