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
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
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)
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)
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.
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?
A massive change – to make a two-state
solution possible – perhaps not impossible?
A single- democratic state – not Jewish,
not Palestinian – mutual respect?
A “confederation” – combining parts of 1.)
and 2.) (unlikely to be possible, in my mind)?
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
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!