Sunday, August 21, 2016

Surprise, surprise. JStreet U officer supports Black Lives Matter platform on Israel

Sar Shalom

{Also published at Jews Down Under.}

Tablet Magazine ran a few great takedowns of Black Lives Matter's platform as it concerns Israel. Unfortunately, they were followed by an article by Daniel May, a past Director of JStreet U, essentially saying that Israel's occupation policy is responsible for BLM's platform. While nearly every paragraph of May's deserves criticism, in particular his parroting of Haaretz's lies, I'd like to focus on his original sin. In the final paragraph, May writes:
Palestine will never advance so long as Jews deny the cost of Zionism. The Jewish nation’s independence was won only through the dispossession of another nation.
Everything in the case against "the Occupation" stems from the accusation the Jewish sovereignty was won by dispossessing another nation. From the dispossession narrative comes the "right to resist" which justifies Palestinian terror and, with such actions being justified, delegitimizes Israel's countermeasures. Hence we see the one-sided description from JStreet and their ilk.

To understand dispossession as it pertains to the "Palestinians," consider a counterfactual from American history. Suppose that when the Pilgrims came to Massachusetts (for simplicity, I will be using present-day names for places), the population of Indian tribes native to Massachusetts was small. However, just before then, a handful of tribes from Quebec had started migrating to Massachusetts and accelerated during the Pilgrims' lifetimes. Subsequently, the Pilgrims' descendants stopped the inflow from Quebec and imposed population controls on the Indian population in Massachusetts, affecting the Quebec tribes because they were the larger presence. Would such an action constitute dispossession for the Quebec tribes? Such is the case with the Palestinians.

While it is true that Arabs were the majority of the population of the southwest Levant before the advent of Zionism, it does not follow that all non-Jewish population change was the result of natural growth. In the decades before the first Aliya, the Ottomans started moving population from other parts of its empire to the southwest Levant. A larger impetus for immigration was the economic development created by the Zionists. The result is that as the Jewish population rose due to Zionist immigration, so did the Arab population due to Arab immigration. Neither the Ottomans nor the British attempted to document how many Arabs thus entered Palestine. Thus, we have no reliable numbers for how many entered or what percentage of those claiming to be Palestinian have actual ties to the southwest Levant from before the first Aliya. Thus, the dispossession narrative claims that denying sovereignty to immigrants from Arabia and Egypt is dispossessing those immigrants.

A larger flaw in the dispossession narrative is common accounts miss in how the conflict started, where "how the conflict started" means what changed from when there was relative calm. An example of the politically correct understanding of what changed between then and now comes from Vox's explanation of the conflict from back in January. According to the narrator of that clip, prior to 1870, the population was mostly Muslim and Christian with a small Jewish minority. Feathers were ruffled as Zionism, responding to issues in Europe, sent a large influx of European Jews to Palestine, fundamentally changing the nature of the land to those who had been living there previously.

The facts included in that narrative are accurate, however, it excludes other facts which are critical to understanding what changed. As mentioned above, one of those facts is Arab immigration. However, there is also the matter of relations between Jews and Muslims prior to the advent of Zionism. To understand this, it is necessary to go back to the 1830's when the Ottoman Empire sought European help to reclaim Palestine from Egypt. The condition for that help was an end to enforcing the Pact of Umar. After the Ottoman Empire regained Palestine, the Christians went about their lives ignoring the restrictions of the Pact, confident that Europe had their backs if the Ottomans would seek to impose consequences while the Jews voluntarily submitted because they had no major power backers. The Muslims thus loved the Jews because they gave the deference due to the master faith while hating the Christians for spurning the deference with impunity. A few decades later, Zionism introduced European and other Jews to the southwest Levant. The European Jews brought with them the ideals of the Enlightenment, ideals which they felt Europe failed to uphold towards them, and thus refused to abide by the humiliation engendered by the Pact. With that, any warm feelings the Muslims had for the Jews evaporated. While not all Arabs, or even all Muslim Arabs, in the Levant valued having the Jews display "proper deference" over economic opportunities, that began to change after the British appointed Amin al-Husseini as mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini used that position as a platform from which to promulgate that not doing so was treason to the Muslim umma, which combined with the honor-shame culture of the Arab world led to positions we see today.

The important takeaway is what George Orwell taught decades ago, "He who controls the past controls the future." If we ignore insinuations that Israel was created through the dispossession of the Palestinians, then we are ceding control of the past to the post-Zionists and the Palestinianists, and therefore we cede to them the future, that is the litany of "Occupation" perpetuating the dispossession from a century ago.


  1. If there is one fact anti-Israel activists and sympathizers invariably do not know, it's that Ottomans "owned" and then lost the land. That "Palestinians," however defined, never had something to take.

    A person ignorant of that fundamental fact would seem unqualified to lecture about who is entitled to the land. That does not stop them, however.

    Somehow, I've the sense that significant numbers of J Street members and supporters fall among the unqualified. Their brand of Judaism is too global, in worship of the progressive religion, with too little recognition of how the globe has treated Jews through history when there was nowhere for Jews to go.

  2. What surprised me was to find Tablet in my inbox this morning pushing this same freaking article for the second time in a week. It's not a good article, i.e., it would only be compelling to those of the J Street faith and their ilk. Apparently, in Mr. May's universe it is only Jews and 'other white people' who have a moral dilemma. May's Jews are supposed to be a monolith of virtue - anyone who has ever strayed from the reservation is apparently a bad reflection on us all, e.g., a cab driver, a Knesset member's wife. Jews are just 'white people' because he, Chris Rock, and 'black folk' see us all as such. He cannot dare let himself find the same flaws in individuals from groups such as American blacks and "Palestinians." Misdirection about the application of laws to groups in the territories according to their legal status which are the result of international treaties and humanitarian law, and a phoney book banning are par for the course. He doesn't mention there is one set of laws for all Israelis, regardless of ethnic or religious background. The entire article is an easily disputed exercise in one sidedness. For someone going for a doctoral thesis Daniel May presents a most decidedly unconvincing and unscholarly argument. The 'dispossession of another nation' statement was the kicker.
    I just don't want to pay $2.00 for the honor of unpacking this thing in Tablet's comments section. Screw that.

  3. Who cares what kapos like May think? A kapo is a kapo.

  4. So does the ADL. Anyway, you can't stop people who have a desperate need to get kicked in the head. Let them get kicked in the head.

  5. This piece is getting considerable attention... because it's a damn good piece.

    The "dispossession narrative" is central to the conversation and it needs to be discussed, historicized, and undermined because not only is it false it's purpose is to rob the Jewish people of our heritage and well-being in the cause of Islamic imperialism.

    "The important takeaway is what George Orwell taught decades ago, 'He who controls the past controls the future.'"

    Mahmoud Abbas said that the "Palestinians" are the masters of history.

    In a sense, he is right.

    Historians would do well to learn how politically aggressive propagandists, like Abbas, not only make history up, but sell that false history to the international community.

    btw, Sar Shalom, I think that I may owe you something of an apology.

    I gave Jews Down Under the permission to cross-post this piece without asking you.

    It was late and I was tired and I assumed you would not mind.

    I hope that you don't.

    1. The "Palestinian" mastery of history has more to do with Western guilt over colonialism and racism than anything else, IMV. They just tell the lies, many of them transparent and obvious. It's the West that prefers to eat it up. This is the West renouncing itself in a way most convenient to it, for what has denouncing the Jews ever cost?

    2. I guess any publicity is good publicity.

    3. One of my favorite of such lies is the notion that Jesus was "the first Palestinian shaheed."

      What a bunch of outrageous hooey, but they'll say almost anything.

      They won't even admit that Jesus was a Jew and they also claim - as you well know - that Moses was a Muslim.

      This is heritage theft and it is part of the larger agenda of eliminating Judaism and replacing it with Islam or reducing Jews to our traditional status as dhimmis under Islamic imperial rule.

      By the way, did you guys know that Skokie, Illinois is the 37th most holy site within Islam?

      According to one of the hadiths, Muhammad flew his winged steed, Buraq, to Skokie in search of really good cheesesteak sandwich.

      Sounds about as plausible as the rest of it, dontcha think?

    4. "What is now called the Al Aqsa Mosque is not universally considered Islam's third holiest shrine.

      According to Shia Islam, Najaf and Karbala are holier than Jerusalem with some even claiming that Karbala is holier than Mecca and Medina. (Wikipedia once acknowledged this in this page, which was changed after I pointed out this fact in 2010. It now implies, but doesn't say, that Jerusalem is holier than Karbana and Najaf.)

      Sufi Muslims have a completely different list of top holiest sites.

      Describing the Al Aqsa Mosque as the third holiest site in Islam is simply wrong. At best, it is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam. (You can also argue about whether Mohammed was describing Jerusalem in his "night journey" story - it is not at all clear that he was.)"

    5. "The only reasonable numbers are zero, one, and infinity" is as true in the real world as in computer science. You can have one holiest piece of real estate on Earth. But if you got two, then why not three. Or four. Easy to see this rule in the classification of human religions: atheism, monotheism, polytheism. There is no fivetheism. In Islam there is only one holy site, and even Medina is not holy. ISIS (practitioners of the truest of the true Islam) would blow up the "prophets mosque" there, because worshipping tombs is shirk. If you have to argue whether Karbala is holier than Jerusalem, then neither is really THAT holy, because you've got a thousand other places with equal claim.

    6. When did Mohammed visit Jerusalem? Like never, and there were no mosques there either. Nothing really to argue about. This 3rd holiest site is nothing but a way of marking territory.

    7. Palestinians received an ear as a way to buy off the violence, the precursor to what is now ISIS. Along with the oil coercion by the Arabs.

      Israel's success also changed the equation, and gave Europeans a quick and easy way to shift attention from their guilt, all of which was buttressed by the cynical visions of Marxist "utopia."