Deriding All Critique of Israel as Anti-Semitic is Inherently Anti-Semitic: The Struggle for Peace in light of Trump’s “Deal of The Century”
On January 28th, 2020, President Donald Trump who is currently undergoing an impeachment trial, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who on the same day was indicted on corruption cases; unveiled their “Deal of The Century” peace plan that aims to resolve the one-sided Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Interestingly, the United States and Israel managed to forge the first-ever deal in the history of deals without ever consulting the party that's supposed to agree to it. Talk about cutting edge.
If a repackaging of racist Apartheid policies is what is meant by “Deal of The Century” then the Trump administration couldn’t be more correct in their description. The plan is a continuation of the Trump administration’s antagonism towards Palestine going back to the recognition of Jerusalem as the sole capital of Israel and the relocation of the U.S embassy to there from Tel Aviv. Then there was Besty Devos threatening to cut funding to a jointly run UNC-Duke middle eastern studies program citing that the program unfairly promoted “the positive aspects of Islam”, and that, according to North Carolina Republican Congressman George Holding, there was “severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
Then the pattern reemerged last December when Trump declared criticism of Israel anti-Semitic via executive order. This is problematic for several reasons not least of which that it makes no distinction between the state of Israel and Jewish people worldwide. Anti-Semitism refers to ideas and behaviors that harm and discriminate against Jews because they are Jews. Toxic spewed by the likes of Alex Jones and the alt-right literati which describe the Jewish people as a deceptive cabal working in concert to manipulate the world’s banks are examples of anti-Semitism. Likewise, physical harm exerted upon Jews because of their Jewishness is also anti-Semitic. Anti-Zionism which serves as the basis for many critiques of the Israeli state is a political ideology which as the name suggests — opposes Zionism. Zionism is a political project born in the late 19th century which proclaimed that the only way for Jews to escape European anti-Semitism was for Jews to build their own state in Palestine. The creation of Israel in 1948 was the natural and desired outcome of Zionism and came at the expense of the people already living there leading to some 700,000 Palestinians being expelled from their lands, 20,000 more being killed, and over 400 villages being vanquished. This event became known as the “Nakba” or catastrophe. Of course, atrocities in Palestine didn’t start or end with the Nakba. Illegal settlements continue to be propped up in the West Bank by Israel, the murderous blockade on Gaza is ongoing, and for Palestinian citizens of Israel, there exists over sixty laws which specifically target them — all in the name of Zionism. Anti-Zionists call for equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine regardless of their race, ethnicity, or religion — something which both the state of Israel and the Zionist movement refuse to accept. All Jews are not Zionists, and Zionists do not speak for all Jews. Conflating anti-Semitism with any critique of Israel, or with anti-Zionism at large, problematically presumes the former two statements to be true. In fact, essentializing an entire group of people under a solitary ideological banner in this way is deeply racist. Furthermore, conflating the two presupposes that only Jews are affected by Zionism and erases the fact that the Palestinian people are the primary victims of Zionism both historically and presently. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism and instead serves as an important tentpole of solidarity in opposition to the ethnic-supremacist settler-colonial project in Palestine.
This brings us to the present with the newest innovation in U.S backed Israeli colonial domination. Under the new plan, Palestinians will be granted limited autonomy within a fractured chain of non-contiguous enclaves. The Israeli government will retain full security control over the Palestinian pockets of territory as well as the airspace, any access to underground water, and the electromagnetic spectrum. Palestinians will be allowed to elect local leaders but will maintain no political rights in Israel despite being ruled by them.
If this kind of racial segregation sounds familiar to you that’s because it should. The plan is strikingly similar to the system of grand apartheid in South Africa which carved up the land into Bantu homelands in much the same way. The idea was simple, politically and racially separate South African blacks from whites in order to render the native population legal citizens of their Bantustans and subsequently revoke their political rights within White South Africa. Doing so meant that the Apartheid government could claim that it was a white majority nation when in reality it was not. The same thinly veiled attempt at striping an entire group of people of their rights is being deployed in Palestine where the amount of Jews and Palestinians is roughly equal.
Jared Kushner, an ardently religious Zionist, stated, just as the apartheid South African government once did, that once the Palestinians “prove” that they are able to govern themselves they will be granted further autonomy. It gets worse though as the map released by the Trump administration is highly misleading. The plan continues the trend of categorizing land in the West Bank as either Area A, B, or C type. Area C territories are under full Israeli control. Under the new plan, over 60% of the land in the West Bank will be classified as Area C and therefore subject to annexation by the Israeli government. The plan makes no mention at any point of what is to become of the thousands of Palestinians currently living there. The goal is clear; compartmentalize the West Bank such that it can be as easily choked as the Gaza Strip currently is, making what’s left of Palestine a series of open-air prisons.
If the map looks like something straight out of the same smoke-filled rooms wherein the GOP (and Democrats too to an extent) would draw up our nation’s gerrymandered congressional districts, that’s because it is. It’s plainly obvious the plan is a bone being thrown from Trump to his Evangelical base amidst the intensification of an ongoing impeachment trial. The resemblances are also by design because Palestine serves as a testing grounds to be analyzed before implementing analogous policies here in the U.S. From austerity to border militarization to increased surveillance to the widescale emboldening of the security apparatus, all of it has and will continue to be employed in some fashion here in the U.S and specifically weaponized against immigrants and other vulnerable populations. This will only accelerate over the coming years as more are displaced due to climate catastrophes. The Israeli Defense Force already trains our law enforcement officers to the detriment of these communities. Just this month the Trump administration began its “pilot” program of collecting DNA from immigrants including minors as young as 14 years old. In case you’re wondering what could be problematic about that just look at what happened in 2010 to Ethiopian Jewish women in Israel who were misled regarding the effects of a birth control method in order to curb births in a community that was mostly black and poor.
Also as a side note, something not mentioned in any of the major media outlets is how there is no official border with Lebanon depicted on the peace plan map. Instead, there is an “armistice” line which further cements the idea that Israel has aspirations of annexing territory further to the north as well.
The simple fact is that the U.S and Israel know this is a plan the Palestinians can only reject. And reject they have as the Palestinians see no reason to breathe any legitimacy into something so one-sided as this. The Trump administration was counting on that though as they have already threatened the revocation of aid and the implementation of sanctions as well as “authorized” Israel to carry out extrajudicial assassinations of opposition leaders at-will in the West Bank and in Gaza. The two-state solution may have been possible once but today acts as a front for buying Israel time to continue to settle lands until there is no state left or in other words the “steal-the-state” solution. Perhaps most unsurprisingly amidst all of this, however, is the capitulation of the gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, and the UAE to Western hegemonic forces in their desperate bid to formalize an alliance with the West in order to curb Iranian influence in the region.
With elections around the corner in Israel, we are sadly reminded that there is no viable left-wing which centers itself around decolonization in Israel currently. Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz called the plan “a significant and historic milestone” and later went on to say he would work towards implementing it immediately after the election in the event that he wins.
The positive side here, like with many of Trump’s actions, is the illumination of the imperial nature of the U.S, and in this case, the colonial dreams of Israel into the limelight so nakedly that awareness of the issue will inevitably increase. The “Deal of The Century” brought together the Palestinians in a rare meeting wherein the Fatah government and Hamas both convened to discuss future strategy. Here in the U.S, the plan is also bringing Palestinians, Jews — humanitarians alike together to protest the ongoing antagonism of Palestine by the current administration. One such event will be taking place on January 30th in Raleigh, NC.
In maintaining our unbroken solidarity amid the continuing struggle being waged internationally against Israeli apartheid, let us never forget what Nelson Mandela said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”