Subliminal racism in coalition-building

by Yaniv Reich on October 26, 2009

The Promised Land blog has an excellent post today about the recent political attacks against Peace Now. These attacks include being called “a virus, which causes the state great damage” by Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF Chief of Staff and current Knesset member. They also include Peace Now’s director-general being banned from entering Israel’s parliament by Knesset Chairman Rivlin after some confusion about their role in a mock interview with one of the most extreme members of the Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari.

Noam goes on to argue the following:

Peace Now was always considered a part of the Israeli left, but nobody serious ever questioned its legitimacy. It always proud [sic] itself for remaining an exclusively Zionist movement, who supported most of Israel’s military actions and objected the refusal movements, such as Yesh Gvul (יש גבול) and Ometz Lesarev (אומץ לסרב). It appears that all these distinctions don’t help Peace Now anymore. They are condemned as traitors just the same
[…]
The de-legitimization of the Israeli left should serve as a lesson for its leaders and supporters. One cannot build an exclusive left, or an exclusive civil rights movement. By leaving its natural partners—the Arabs—behind, and instead trying to win some sort of competition in patriotism with the political right, Peace Now took part in creating the atmosphere and the mechanism that led to its downfall.

This is exactly right.

Moreover, its a lesson that J Street should consider seriously in the wake of recent criticisms that because they receive money from some Arab-Americans, they are somehow agents bent on Israel’s destruction.

Arabs are not just human beings with a full suite of inalienable human, civil, and political rights. They are also natural allies in any political coalition that tries to secure those rights. Anyone, Arab or otherwise, who wants to work nonviolently for justice and peace should be welcome.

A type of converse of that statement is also true: Anyone who thinks they are working for Palestinian rights by excluding them from the debate harbors some type of prejudice, which will only make things worse. As Noam points out, this seems to be one of Peace Now’s biggest failings.

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