Thursday, January 1, 2009

Taking Sides II

Rebecca posts on some signs from an NYC protest against Cast Lead. Many of these signs are explicitly pro-violence. In other words, it would be a mistake to call this a peace rally. It is, rather, a pro-Hamas rally. I've seen others post similar pictures, including the absolutely not hilarious "Death to All Juice." You can see it says "Zionist" in very small letters in parentheses, as if that makes it ok. Or maybe you can't because it's too small.

Yet a great many people who are genuinely pro-peace may be torn over whether to join such rallies. It certainly seems that there are two sides, and I can imagine that one might feel they have to chose. The pro-Israel signs I've seen posted in various places have generally not been much smarter. The websites I found googling that picture are decidedly Islamophobic.

There certainly are situations where it is not enough to stand on the sidelines with a self-satisfied, principled stance. But there's a problem that there isn't anymore space for a genuinely pro-peace position. And there are plenty of people, I think it's fair to say that in the last 10 years they've mostly not not exclusively been on the anti-Israel side, actively trying destroy whatever space remains. Though some of the pictures I've seen have been posted by the anti-Israel crowd, I haven't seen any anywhere that say things like "Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace" or "Salaam, Shalom, Peace." Ten years ago, these were staples of such protests.

I think the most important consideration for peace activists has to be to recover that space. I don't think that can be done by joining these anti-Israel protests. Maybe standing ostentatiously in the middle of the street between the different protestors would be a good strategy.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Thank you for posting this. I also feel the same way - that the space inbetween has been diminished almost to nothing. If I were living in New York City, and felt inclined to demonstrate for peace between Israel and Palestine, I certainly would not join the demonstrations that I covered in my blog. I had to wonder how the woman wearing the "Jews Against the Occupation" shirt felt standing among those calling for the destruction of Israel or holding explicitly anti-semitic signs (like the one with the disgusting photograph of the dead person). I am both a "Jew against the occupation" and a a "Jew against anti-semitism" so I can't imagine feeling at all comfortable in such a setting. I have read some statements by pro-peace Israel groups that I agree with (for example Brit Tzedek) but they aren't very prominent in the public sphere of the discussion about Gaza.