Progressives? - Palestine - a Book Review


EXCEPT FOR PALESTINE: The Limits of Progressive Politics by: Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick is a must-read for anyone seriously concerned about how Israel treats Palestinians and/or open to hearing about it.   The authors are thorough and direct in addressing the relevant issues related primarily to Israel, Palestinians and The United States.

Repeatedly throughout the book the unquestioning support of most of the United States political forces for Israeli government policies is obvious.   Our total lack of concern for Palestinians is similarly shown.

The Palestinians must say the right things over and over again.  The more they try, the , more they doom themselves to less and less.  Even when Palestinian leadership seemingly does the right things, it is never enough.

The weaknesses of both the “radical” Hamas and the “moderate” PLO leadership is evident through much of the book.   The failures of American presidents and Congress to look more than at simple propaganda is repeatedly self-evident.  

One key point is that though President Trump was more direct, and said many unguardedly extreme statements, most of what he did fit in with what his predecessors had done.

It was during the comparatively progressive presidency of Barack Obama – seen by many as the most favorable to the Palestinian cause since Jimmy Carter more than three decades earlier – that negotiations collapsed under the weight of years of collective frustration.  The Palestinians had become fed up with a quarter century of talks that always prioritized Israeli concerns over their own.  As these talks dragged on with no end in sight, Israeli settlement constructed increased exponentially, and the occupation become ever more repressive. (p.6-7)

It is important to note that Israel does not demand that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States, Australia or any other country recognize it as a Jewish state. This demand is unique to the Palestinians.  (p.37)

The authors note the critical importance to Palestinians of having a right to return to the land where 750,000 (mostly by now ancestors) were driven out in 1948.  Strongly related is the creation of true  equality.  Israeli Jews fear losing their homes.  They also fear a loss of their lifestyle sharing “their” country  in more than token ways.

These specific grievances included:

Israel’s construction of the wall in the West Bank, in areas well beyond its internationally recognized border,

Continued expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank,

Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and the deep concern over potential of large parts or even all of the West Bank (16),

The growing global Palestinian refugee population, (and)

Israel’s discrimination against its own Arab, largely Palestinian citizens.

On the basis of these grievances, this assortment of civil society groups called for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) … (p.54)

BDS is a useful boogeyman for the Israeli and American right wings allowing them to expand their assaults on democracy while advancing the narrative that “the whole world is against Israel”(9) (p.79)

For self-identifying progressives it is tempting to frame President Trump as a deviation from the political status quo.   With regard to the Middle East, such framing allows us to remain unaccountable for decades of giving left-wing support for – or at best tepid opposition to – policies that have undermined the possibility of freedom, dignity, safety, and self-determination for the Palestinian people. (p.110)

When Israelis speak, sometimes bombastically, about the destruction of their state, they don’t always mean by bombs and missiles; sometimes they are referring to being outnumbered by Palestinians as citizens, with the political power that would entail.  While one hesitates to call that fear justified, it is certainly true that even the barest democratic structure would be strained in trying to maintain a state as an expression of a particular ethnic group if that group represents a minority of the state’s citizens. (p.146)

As Palestinian-American scholar Rashid Khalidi points out, the current conditions in Gaza amount to collective punishment. … Such collective punishment is always self-defeating.  More to the point, collective punishment is a war crime.(124) (p.149)

To move beyond the current limits, progressives must embrace a more principled politics, one that begins by recognizing the fundamental humanity of Palestinians. (p.155)

(related to the above) Only from this place can equal human, civil, individual, and national rights for both Israelis and Palestinians be achieved. (p.156)

(referring to American progressives) We can push Israel to allow the people of Gaza the freedom to rebuild their economy.  We can put real pressure on Israel to stop expanding its settlements, and to allow Palestinian towns to grow, as well as allow the free movement of Palestinians in the West Bank.  We can make it clear that our democratic values demand that we support Palestinians having the same rights to a national existence as Israelis do, and the same right to live in peace and security. (p. 158)

Plittnick and Lamont Hill – are most effective in limiting their focus to clear, concise areas. Through this they devastatingly indirectly (mostly)  show the direct relevance to Palestinian rights to the Black Lives Movement.  

Israel is an apartheid state!   As a Jew, I am ashamed!   We, Jews, have turned from being the victims to the oppressors.   We remain largely silent, while things get worse and worse.  Israel and the U.S. have made it nearly impossible to have a two-state solution because of our silence. 

What will we do?  

1.)         A massive change – to make a two-state solution possible – perhaps not impossible?

2.)         A single- democratic state – not Jewish, not Palestinian – mutual respect?

3.)         A “confederation” – combining parts of 1.) and 2.) (unlikely to be possible, in my mind)?


4.)         Try – to hold on – an Apartheid State – where Jewish Israeli’s will continue to live in fear of Palestinians – who will become a growing majority without basic rights?

I wish – that we would face the realities – move through our fears – and move positively ahead.  Palestinians – are not going to have revenge, as we have had and continue to have with them.    They lack the military power.  They lack the police the power.  

More importantly, they’ve shown that they have hearts, despite all that they’ve faced.  They want to work positively for something that they and we have never had; a just peace.  – Read this book – please!





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