Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Wall: American Students Hit The Iron Wall of Zionism

American college students have launched a movement that has run into the Iron Wall of Zionism


It was the subject of a foundational book by a founding father of modern Zionism. It was the object that Zionist soldiers ruthlessly defended in 2018. It is what protesting American students have just run into. Concretely and conceptually, it is the keystone of the Zionist project: the Wall.

The first rule of Zionism is that the wall must be absolutely impenetrable.

The material wall must be impenetrable because, in the context of an ethno-religious supremacism, it's the boundary that separates the elect, the chosen, the ubermenschen from the rejected, the dispossessed, the untermenschen. Any breach in the wall will lead, inexorably and quickly, to a breakdown of the essentialist exceptionalism and the social order premised thereupon.

In the white-supremacist segregated south, the police and the dogs and the nightsticks had to be used to prevent even one black child from entering a white school because, they knew, that would mean the end of Jim Crow.

In Jewish-supremacist apartheid Israel, as Israeli academic and political advisor Arnon Soffer said years before the Great March of Return in 2018, it is necessary for Israel to “put a bullet in the head of anyone who tries to climb over the security fence.” Israel must prevent even one Gazan from crossing the wall, because “when 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. … The pressure at the border will be awful. … So, … we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day…. If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist.”  

Now that the Palestinian resistance from Gaza has crossed the “security fence” wall, Israel must use bombs and rockets and starvation to kill and kill and kill masses of Palestinians all day, every day—“totally annihilate” them. If that wall can't hold, the Palestinians have to go—to their deaths or to a place beyond a farther, stronger wall. Because, the Jewish supremacists know, leaving the Palestinians defiantly present would mean the end of Zionism.  As Ali Abunimah said, in the context of a previous Israeli attack: “The Gaza massacre is the price of a ‘Jewish state’.”

The other first rule of Zionism—for Western secular liberals, at least—is that the wall must be invisible.

The conceptual wall must be invisible because, in the context of a world that has foresworn and forbidden racism and colonialism, to see such a wall is to call for its destruction.

Above all, Western secular liberals must not see the wall they have constructed in their minds between the uber- and untermenschen. “Of course, I'm anti-racist and anti-colonialist. I abhor apartheid and Jim Crow. I stand with Martin and Malcolm and my heart, too, is buried at Wounded Knee! I do, however, assume that it was not only an acceptable, but a wonderful thing, that 80% of the Palestinian Arab population was killed or expelled in order to establish a Jewish-supremacist state. I accept that we must unconditionally support that state as it subjugates and continues incrementally, with only occasional massacres, to kill, imprison, ghettoize, demolish and take the homes of the less important Arab people in favor of the more important Jewish settlers. And I assume, as Nathan J. Robinson succinctly summarized Zionist ethics, that: ‘Any amount of Palestinian death, however large, [is] justified to prevent any amount of risk to Israelis, however small. I assume these things, but I don’t think about them. What Zionism? Black Lives Matter!’”

They must not see the Zionism they embrace. In fact, they avoid even seeing the word. Very few will ever, like Joe Biden, say “I am a Zionist.” There’s a “progressive” website that routinely flags “Zionist” in submissions as a word to be avoided because it makes people uncomfortable. I wonder why that is?

Western, and especially American, secular liberals also must not see the corresponding ideological and political barriers constructed by the regime they live in, even as they continually and carefully step their way around them. “Let’s talk about foreign election interference. Russia, China, Iran! Let’s talk about how we constantly get into ‘senseless’ wars against Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran! What elephant?” The Discreet Charm of the Western liberal Zionist.

This latter, conceptual wall, the “mind-forg’d manacle” is the most important. American support, upon which Zionism depends, depends on that wall. If it is uncloaked and seen, if one unpleasant intruder gets in—i.e., “settler colonialism,” “Jewish supremacism”—the entire edifice of Zionism will be fatally undermined. No miscegenation, in thought or deed.

Both walls are maintained and defended, and can only be breached, by force. The wall of Jim Crow segregation was defended with the force of armed racists, the law, and the police. It took years of determined nonviolent and armed political resistance, and finally the use of political and military force by the national power to remove that wall and end that segregation.

The material wall protecting Zionism is defended by political, economic, and military force—by bullets, guns, bombs, and political, economic, and diplomatic intimidation provided for Israel by the United States and its Western clients. The conceptual wall is defended by a massive ideological apparatus of controlled and self-controlled media, schools, and laws and policies managing the availability of knowledge and the permissible expression of ideas. It will take a determined resistance on all fronts to tear down those walls.

The uprising of students on American campuses has opened a powerful new front that threatens, and has run into, that wall.

It's been made possible by the internet opening universally accessible new sources of current and historical information, and new platforms for the debate and expression of ideas. It's been accelerated from zero to hypersonic in six months by Israel’s blatant genocidal violence in Gaza, playing out on phone screens throughout the day in real time.

The younger generation, who have had access to current and historical information and in whom the epistemological patterns of self-deception have not been sufficiently formed, clearly see, name, and refuse to let anyone ignore the wall they are determined to break through: “This is genocide. This is ethnic cleansing. This is the deliberate demolition of a whole society and the mass murder of women and children. This is what we all know to be an apex crime against humanity. This—Israel has been and is telling us and we will not ignore—is Zionism.”

That—making Zionism visible and putting the question of its legitimacy on the table—is why the powers-that-be in the United States hate and fear the current student movement, and will use all of their power to crush it. Criticizing specific excessive Israeli policies, arguing about proportionality, expressing sympathy for Palestinians as victims are permitted; identifying and rejecting Zionism as a form of Jewish-supremacist settler colonialism, and supporting Palestinian resistance thereto, is anathema.

To my surprise and delight, what we’ve been witnessing over the past few weeks, sparked by the students at Columbia University, looks like the birth of an American anti-Zionist movement. After writing about the cruelty and criminality of Zionism for decades, after being disappointed that Israel’s gratuitous killings and maimings during the what I called the Great March of Zionist Hypocrisy in 2018 did not spark a wave of revulsion to Zionism, it has been wonderful to see so many people—especially young people, and especially young Jews—posting videos saying something like: “I didn’t know much about Palestine-Israel until October 7th, then I looked into it and now I realize how fucked-up Zionism is!” with young Jews adding: “I was brought up to think of Zionism as an integral part of my Jewishness. No more. I now find it in contradiction to my Jewish values.”

This is powerful stuff and, kid ourselves not, it cannot be permitted. That is why we are seeing furious repression against demonstrations on campuses that have been using their history of student activism as a selling point: 

Columbia is a far different place today than it was in the spring of 1968 when protesters took over University buildings amid discontent about the Vietnam War, racism and the University’s proposed expansion into Morningside Park. After a weeklong standoff, New York City Police stormed the campus and arrested more than 700 people. The fallout dogged Columbia for years. 

In 1985, protesters padlocked and chained Hamilton Hall as they demanded that the university divest from companies that were doing business in South Africa. The university was reluctant to comply…Three weeks later, the students ended their blockade…Later that year, Columbia’s board of trustees voted to sell all of the university’s stock in American companies doing business in South Africa.

When the issue is something as important as war and apartheid, everybody knows the important thing is not whether you’re trespassing; it’s which side you are on, what you’re fighting for. Everybody now knows the anti-Vietnam war and anti-apartheid protestors were on the right side, about something important. In 1985, the university administration knew, and knew that the world knew, that the students protesting white supremacist apartheid over black South Africans were on the right side, and therefore had to let them occupy Hamilton Hall for three weeks.

Today, the university administration immediately sics a thousand cops on the students occupying Hamilton Hall to protest Jewish-supremacist genocide, because 1) they know, and know the world knows, the students are on the right side of history, 2) the University administration, subservient to the US ruling class and its political representatives, is on the wrong, atavistic and rejected, side of history and supports the Jewish-supremacist colonial prerogative over Palestinian Arabs, and 3) therefore, must try to stamp that whole issue out of the public sphere as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and intimidate anyone who might want to raise it again.

For the same reasons, today, to an extent unprecedented in those prior protest cycles, the entire bipartisan political and media elite must unite to crush, criminalize, and forbid anti-Zionist dissent. They are proceeding to do that with laws (like the Antisemitism Awareness Act) that, formally, and media coverage that, implicitly and ridiculously, define anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, thereby rendering invisible the many—disproportionate number, I think—of Jews at the forefront of the movement. Everybody knows there are orders of magnitude more Christian than Jewish Zionists, some of the most committed anti-Zionists are Jews, and there is 𝘯𝘰 necessary or intrinsic connection between Judaism and Zionism. But certain things that are obvious must not be seen.

It's hard to make people unlearn and unsee, but that is what they must and will try to do, with the harshest repression. As someone who participated in campus protests and building occupations in the past, I am certain the breadth and severity of the American state’s reaction to these anti-Zionist protests will be unprecedented. The students will be expelled and arrested. Laws will be passed criminalizing criticism of Israel and Zionism. Censorship of social media will be tightened. No American anti-Zionist political movement can be allowed.

Because it’s not just that Zionism has been part of Jewish identity; through decades of relentless, well-organized and well-funded ideological and political work, it has installed itself as part of American identity.

We live in a country where powerful politicians and the wealthy donors who control them proclaim their fealty to Israel; where Israeli officials enjoy veto power over candidates for office down to the level of State Assembly; where a Secretary of State gives a “devoutly Zionist” speech and is still criticized for not being obsequious enough to Israel; where Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces galas are hosted by Republican (Sheldon & Miriam Adelson) and Democratic (Haim Saban) billionaires to collect $50 million a night tax-deductible to its donors; where a lecturer at the National Defense University and the US Army War College can, without objection, say: “The United States military, then, is a Zionist institution”; where the President declares, “I am a Zionist” and a President who was excoriated for avoiding service in the American army can say, “I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die” for Israel, and nobody bats an eyelash; and where the Speaker of the House says, “If this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain is our commitment to, our aid—and I don't even call it aid, our cooperation—with Israel. That's fundamental.”

The United States has become a Zionist country, and those who made it so are going to do anything to prevent that from changing. One of the things they have to do is prevent you from seeing or thinking about that. That’s why Hillary Clinton’s campaign decided not to highlight—except to donors—her love for Israel: “We shouldn't have Israel at public events. Especially dem (Democratic) activists...she can drop in Israel when she's with donors.” 

So, the nascent American anti-Zionist movement represented by the campus protests must be crushed, and the impenetrability and invisibility of the wall of Zionism restored. Hard to do, when the Israelis are massacring and starving to death tens of thousands of Gazans on live stream. But understand, as the Israelis do, that the future of Zionism is at stake in how that battle unfolds in the next few months, and realize, precisely by seeing what they are doing to Gaza, that Zionists in Israel and here will do anything to assure the continuation of the Zionist project.

I don't know what will become of the student movement once school is out. I know that the young people powering it will not unlearn or unsee what they now know, and I expect they will bring the disruption home. It belongs everywhere. I know that they've earned the respect of the world, and—what should make them most proud—the gratitude of Palestinians for forcing the United States and the Western world not to ignore them. I know the students have smartly and courageously, at significant risk to themselves, jump-started a new American anti-Zionist movement—and there is no movement more important. And I know that, in doing so, they have run into what really is an iron wall.

If that movement is to have a significant positive effect, in time, on the fate of the Gazan people, there will have to be a lot—millions—more Americans, including workers in every sphere, who will stand and fight with those courageous students and demand that their government break with the enemy of humanity that Zionism is. The iron is very hot. Now is the time to strike.


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