Israel/Palestine

A few thoughts on solidarity

This piece was partly prompted by the discussion following this recent post about the Palestinian killed in Lebanon.

‘Solidarity’, in a political context, is used to denote a non-judgemental identification with, and support for, a particular group.  ‘Unconditional’ is a word often used in conjunction with ‘solidarity’, and this of course explains, or is used to explain, the tolerance for hateful views and violent actions which is sometimes on display in the Palestinian solidarity movement.  Although violence is comparatively rarely condoned, and may even be apparently rejected, words like these imply that a blind eye should probably be turned:

As a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.” They are the guiding principles of a movement with clear and principled positions, in full and unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

And minor details such as genocidal antisemitism or human rights abuses (and I mean human rights abuses against Palestinians), will most certainly be brushed aside by many.

But is this uncritical solidarity all that it seems to be?  When it comes to Palestinians who are critical of their leadership, who choose the ‘tactics’ of dialogue, compromise and friendship in their ‘struggle for liberation’, the solidarity sometimes seems to fade away. Take this comment, in response to a Gaza youth manifesto, which condemns Israel but also Hamas: “At least Hamas is cracking down on its own people, whereas the IDF has racist youths gassing Palestinians to death.”

A Palestinian who demonstrates some empathy for Israelis is likely to be sneered at, or worse, however firmly critical they are of Israel’s leaders.  As well as attracting disapproval from their supposed friends in the UK, they attract rather more hazardous attention at home.  Perhaps in the West Bank they may suffer nothing more than accusations of ‘normalisation’, the loss of a few friends.  But in Gaza the dangers are more acute. It is difficult to find information about Abu Muailek on the internet – a Palestinian who is being persecuted because he would prefer not to kill Israelis lacks the poster boy appeal of a Raed Salah.

The sneerers, of course, are unlikely to use the same logic in relation to the issue of solidarity with Israel.  If you find the views of Lieberman alarming, or some of Benny Morris’s writings objectionable, and if you find perspectives from bloggers such Marc Goldberg, Phil or Alex Stein more appealing than more hardline voices – you are still a Zionist.

Up to a point I can feel some ‘solidarity’ for Palestinians, i.e. respect their preferences, within certain parameters, if they don’t accord with my own – being in support of boycotts for example.  But not of course beyond a certain point. That’s essentially the same as my attitude towards different Israeli voices – I find some congenial, some challenging but perhaps understandable given the context, and some downright hateful.

But in fact I don’t care for the ‘solidarity’ model as much as I do for this message, taken from an email from a Palestinian with whom I had a brief exchange a while back in connection with a different website:

“My last words for the people who don’t know how to help, I would like to say, don’t take a side, don’t be pro Palestinians or Israelis , be always pro peace, justice and humanity”

Finally – knowing how annoying it is when people fail to distinguish between those who are mildly sympathetic to Israel and hard line supporters of the Israeli right – I should make it clear that I don’t want to suggest that all those whose views – and sometimes it’s just emphases – are more anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian than those of the average HP reader are antisemitic moral nihilists.  (And having said, in an otherwise not unfriendly write up recently, that Steve Hynd  doesn’t discuss Palestinians imprisoned by the PA I had better acknowledge that he had some tweets on this issue just the other day.)

But – going back to more hardcore solidarity types – they are no different from me/us I don’t think.  We all pick the pro-Palestinian/Palestinian voices which appeal to us and reject the others.  But, unlike them, most of us don’t pretend to do anything else.

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