Category Archives: Intersectionality

Socialist Zionism Panel at Socialism 2017 Conference

Socialist Zionism Panel at Socialism 2017 Conference
Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine
Chicago, July 7, 2017

Let’s start at the beginning: In the narrative of the oppressed – in this case, the Palestinian narrative — “Israel” is not a place, but a colonial-settler regime. Just as Zimbabwe was never “Rhodesia,” all “Israel” is occupied Palestine, and there is no such thing as “Israel-Palestine.”

Therefore, the “Occupation” is not just the West Bank and Gaza, which have been Israeli-occupied since 1967, but every inch of land stolen by the Zionist state since 1948. In the Palestinian narrative, “Israel” or “Israel proper” are known as 1948 Palestine, or simply ’48. Conversely a free Palestine refers to *all* of Palestine, from the river to the sea, with equal rights for all its inhabitants.

Think: Make Israel Palestine Again.

Against that narrative is “Progressive Except for Palestine” (PEP), which reflects Zionism’s long-term impact on the U.S. left, specifically through the misappropriation and misapplication of  the right of national self-determination, civil rights, even “socialism” itself, to Israeli settler-colonialism, and often linked to the notion of binationalism.

As discussed by Tikva Honig-Parnass and others, this misappropriation was spearheaded by the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation, which was the Israeli state-in-waiting until 1948, and then ruled the Zionist regime for its first 30 years. Even before that, the social democratic Second International supported Labor Zionism as part of its overall support for imperialism: both the First World War “at home,” and colonialism abroad. Indeed, imperialist regimes like Britain saw Zionism as a way to undermine Bolshevism and the October Revolution of 1917. It’s no surprise that, to this day, the Histadrut is closely aligned with the Second International.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, at the Histadrut’s behest, social democratic garment union leaders in this country enlisted both the AFL and CIO — they were separate federations until 1955 — to loudly demand establishment of a “Jewish state” in Palestine.

This misappropriation of the right to national self-determination and other genuinely-socialist principles was also adopted by the non-Social Democratic left. In the 1920s and 1930s, virtually all communists and socialists had staunchly denounced Zionism as a reactionary, colonial movement. But during the Second World War, Stalin supported a “Jewish state” in Palestine, mainly in the delusional hope of helping Russia replace Britain as the dominant imperial power in the Middle East.

Toward that end, he sent 142,000 displaced Eastern European Jews – willing or not – to displace indigenous Palestinians, organized the necessary two-thirds majority for UN partition in 1947, armed the Zionist militias that carried out the Nakba, and made Russia the first country to recognize the Israeli regime. As U.S. Communist Party chief William Z. Foster boasted in the early 1950s:

“The only true friend of the Jewish people in their fight for national freedom was the Soviet Union, which steadfastly supported the setting-up of the longed-for homeland of the Jews. . . . Eventually, the Jewish masses themselves virtually settled the matter by establishing the Republic of Israel, in May 1948. They then defended their government, arms in hand, against the British-inspired attacks from the neighboring Arab governments. . . . Within the United States. . . . [t]he Communist Party took a very active part in the whole struggle.”

Ironically, some Trotskyists took a virtually identical position. Amidst the Nakba, Hal Draper stated the majority view of the Independent Socialist League: “We not only support the Palestine Jews’ right to self-determination but draw the necessary conclusions from that position: for full recognition of the Jewish state by our own government; for lifting the embargo on arms to Israel; for defense of the Jewish state against the Arab invasion in the present circumstances.”

Now obviously, Draper did not share Stalin’s motives for supporting a Jewish state in Palestine. Rather, his position was rooted in binationalism — the same premise shared by Socialist Zionists of the Hashomer Hatzair — that Jews have an equal right to self-determination in Palestine, including a right to a *separate* state. Jewish and Palestinian workers were to unite for a “socialist” Israel. To put this into perspective, it is like saying that, as communities suffering oppression in Europe, the Boers in apartheid South Africa, or European immigrants in Americas, had the right to a separate — i.e., apartheid — state on stolen indigenous land.

Though common on the left, this premise didn’t go unchallenged. During the 1936-1939 Arab uprising in Palestine, the South African Trotskyists noted that some Marxists had “been swept off their feet by the widespread anti-Semitic wave [in Europe] and have fallen victims to nationalism,” and reminded readers that, “[a] clear, unambiguous stand in support of the colonial people in their struggle against imperialism is the first duty of revolutionary socialism.”

Palestinian Marxists asked how “socialist” were kibbutzes — or “Jewish states” — built on top of the ruins of Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin, site of the most infamous Zionist massacre of the Nakba?

As documented in Black Liberation and Palestine Solidarity, this same position was upheld in the 1960s by Malcolm X, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and others, who condemned not only particular Israeli policies, but Zionism itself. This was based on the understanding that Palestinian oppression — and resistance – was part of the same international system of racism and colonialism inflicted on Black South Africans, Vietnamese, Latin Americans and African Americans. Indeed, in 1973, thousands of Arab and Black workers held a wildcat strike in Detroit to protest UAW support for Israel.

Who defended Israel against these protests? Labor/Left/Socialist Zionists and social democrats, including black moderate civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, the Jewish Labor Committee, and the Workmen’s Circle – the same “left” forces who jumped on the bandwagon for U.S. and Israeli wars in the wake of 9/11.

However, 9/11 and its immediate aftermath also sparked the first visible labor anti-Zionism since the 1973 UAW wildcats, including New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) and Labor for Palestine, both co-led by Black radical activists from the 1960s.

And since the most recent Israeli massacre Gaza massacre in 2014, we have seen a small, but growing number of labor bodies standing with Palestine, including the refusal of the dockers in ILWU Local 10 to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo, and the adoption of BDS resolutions by a small but growing number of labor bodies. This has paralleled growing intersectional solidarity from Black4Palestine, the Movement for Black Lives, Labor for Standing Rock, immigrant rights and other grassroots social justice movements in the United States.

That kind of solidarity with Palestinian resistance is the antidote to Socialist Zionism.

Black4Palestine was proud to sign Labor for Palestine’s petition

Black4Palestine was proud to sign Labor for Palestine‘s petition in support of the strike, and which called for US labor organizations and workers movements to support the strike and reiterate a call for continued labor/worker solidarity with Palestine. The strikers demonstrated the power of collective action that we must all embrace.

Through their 40 day hunger strike, the brave prisoners mobilized forces around the country and the world for Palestine. The global labor movement supported the strike from South Africa, Canada, Europe, and Uruguay. Local supporters of the statement included the groups below:

Victory! We salute the striking Palestinian prisoners (Labor for Palestine)

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

The Movements of Immigrants, Black Lives, Refugees and the Indigenous Talk About the Centrality of Palestine

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To a standing-room-only crowd of about 75 people, a discussion: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go” was held on Wednesday, March 22, at 6101 Wilshire Blvd., formerly Johnie’s with the theme, “grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality (sic),” according the Facebook page of the event.

Also according to the same Facebook page, the event was sponsored by Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement Southern California, California for Progress, HP Boycott Campaign-Los Angeles, Idle No More L.A., Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Jewish Voice for Peace-L.A., Labor for Standing Rock, LA4Palestine, and March and Rally Los Angeles.

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Karen Pomer, who was the lead event organizer, also according the Facebook page, and who is also with Labor for Standing Rock, said, “If we are missing a few people tonight, it’s because we have hundreds of people that we helped organize along with many other groups outside the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office tonight fighting back against the raids and again protecting the state of California from ICE (U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

To read the Facebook page, which announced the discussion, click here.

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Pomer introduced Garik Ruiz.  Ruiz said he’s the North America liaison for the Palestinian BDS Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) National Committee (BNC).  Thus, he works with organizations fighting for human rights for Palestinians against the Israeli state.  Ruiz reported last week the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia released a report for the first time named Israel as “creating a system of apartheid” and asked governments to respond to the BDS campaigns.  Because of pressure from the U.S. and Israel, the U.N. removed the report.  In response, the director resigned rather than withdraw the report.  He also reported the Israeli state had detained prominent Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti placed him under “intense interrogation” to intimidate him and the BDS movement.  Click here to read the the full statement on Barghouti by BNC.

Ruiz then introduced the panelists: Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, who was born in Kuwait and is the National Chairwoman of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Alfredo Gama, who is a member of the Papalotl Brown Berets and an organizer of the recent immigration protests; Nana Gyamfi, who is a member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, including BLMLA; Michael Letwin, who is a New York City public defender, former president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (United Auto Workers Local 2325) and Labor for Standing Rock; Lydia Ponce, who is an organizer with the American Indian Movement and Idle No More of Southern California and an organizer of the No Dakota Access Pipeline protests in Los Angeles; and Ameena Mirza Qazi, who is the Executive Director of the L.A. chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, civil rights attorney who has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination and due process issues.

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Barakat characterized herself as a Palestinian-American immigrant and refugee.  She said, “Trump’s win … has been very difficult and exhausting for many of us…. Aside from him (President Trump) bringing us together today, we’re only two months into his administration and we’re already seeing a change in the American landscape….Tens of thousands of citizens across the country have stormed congressional offices and town hall meetings.…We can see today policy flourishing in the larger institutional structure that serve only select few in the American society.  Whether you’re Black, Latino, Native American, LGBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Queer) or a Muslim, the system excludes you equally….As a Palestinian, I can say with certainty that injustices we face are the same ones our Black, Latino and Native American brothers and sisters have faced for far too long.”

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Next was Gama.  He said when he was first asked to speak he was reminded of the Facebook picture, which said, “From Ayotzinapa to Ferguson to Palestine.”  He then explained that Ayotzinapa is “where 43 students went missing, to Ferguson, where Michael Brown was murdered right to Palestine, where … indigenous Palestinians are also being murdered…. We have to understand we are still a colonized people…. The law is not about justice but power…. We are illegal because we are profitable…. We are saying we are here and we are here to stay.”

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Gyamfi followed Gama.  She almost immediately said, “It is clear that everyone that’s here is someone who understands that how this system is constructed is completely wrong, that it needs to be destroyed and that we need to build a new world.”  She pointed out the Platform for the Movement for Black Lives in 2016 included support for BDS and Palestinian autonomy because Pan-Africanism and the struggle of the Palestinians are a result of colonialism.  At the end, she said, “We are talking about the onslaught on the freedom, the liberation, the autonomy of indigenous populations and we will win together.”

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Letwin followed Gyamfi.  He said the struggle around Palestine is “a beating heart” of intersectionality, which puts Palestine in the center.  Letwin rhetorically asked what the Trump administration means for the movements?  He said while the Trump era is troubling and worrisome, the response, the resistance to it is hopeful.  He pointed out that the policies of the Trump administration that the grassroots movements are responding to are the policies that were part of the Obama administration and all the administrations before it.  Letwin’s last point was that different struggles must include those struggles that have been most marginalized, like the struggles of Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Palestine.

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Ponce immediately reminded the audience they were on the land of the Tonga people.  She said when we come to these kinds of gatherings and meetings, “we recognize that we are all healing from our historical trauma and that the value of coming together like this is to do it more often.”  Ponce said activists “need to step out of their comfort zone and “just show up” even when it “may not be your thing.”  She added, “For solutions tonight, … is to accept the idea the economic elite has declared war on all of us and has signed a death certificate for earth mother.”

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Last to speak on the round was Qazi.  She wasted no words.  She described briefly that the question of Palestine was important to the Middle East South Asian Committee, which is part of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.  She spoke of the Arabic concept of “ummah,” which means community, but also “transcends space and time” and the need to return to that concept that was used before 9/11.  She said, “The United States plays the most active role in oppression of foreign peoples with the suppression of Palestinian rights.”

Ruiz posed some questions to the panel.  First, besides just showing up, are there ways to develop what Ruiz called, “joint struggle.”  Barakat said it was important to learn about each other’s struggles and then participate.  Gama said it was important “to show up but to shut up.”  He said for himself, while he can learn about the Palestinian struggle and stand in solidarity with it, he understood the Palestinians must lead their own struggle.  Gyamfi said issues need to be identified that “we have the same opposing force” and that we understand that we are oppressed and harmed in different ways.  Letwin said one area for potential struggle is to look at “class” and when attempts are made to exclude folks, we need to figure out a way to participate without being silenced, including our own contingents.  Ponce echoed Gama and ended her thoughts with “honor the differences but find the similarities.”  Qazi said it was important to create safe spaces for all of us.  She used a recent example, where it was necessary for the NLG had to boycott a meeting because the Anti-Defamation League (According to the Electronic Intifada, the ADL had been advising universities how to isolate the BDS movement.  Click here to read the Electronic Intifada article.), was participating.  To educate those at the meeting, the NLG sent a letter explaining its decision.

Ruiz posed a second question: what does it mean for us to be supporting Palestinian indigenous resistance, when we are doing that work here on indigenous land and how can we better shape our campaigns and messaging?  Ponce said it was divestment and the need to support the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights for the Indigenous People.

Ruiz posed a third question: how can the Palestine Solidarity Movement in the U.S. do more to support the Movement for Black Lives?  Gyamfi said one way is “to address the anti-blackness within in the Palestinian population.”

LIVESTREAM: From PALESTINE to MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS have got to go!

LIVESTREAM: From PALESTINE to MEXICO, ALL THE WALLS have got to go!
From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from #NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, join us as we discuss a grassroots movements to recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality, and how as progressives can be the force to tear down every wall, barrier, and oppressive obstacle!
#FromPalestineToMexico

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/992280510903897/?notif_t=plan_reminder&notif_id=1490228967088533

ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION: “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go!”

 

From #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, from#NoBanNoWall to the #InternationalWomensStrike, grassroots movements for human liberation increasingly recognize #Palestinian liberation as a central component of intersectionality.

Join some of the leading representatives from these movements to discuss how we can deepen coalition building and a united front within mushrooming resistance in the Trump era.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 22nd
6:30 PM: Reception with refreshments
7:00 PMRound Table starts promptly

WHERE: Formerly Johnie’s Coffee Shop 
6101 Wilshire Blvd, (at Fairfax) Los Angeles, CA 90048

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MODERATOR: Garik Ruiz, the North America Liaison for the Palestinian#BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. He works with local and national partners throughout North America to support BDS campaigns and be a direct link for local organizers back to the BNC leadership in Palestine. Garik spent 6 months in Palestine at the height of the second Intifada in 2002 and 2003 working with Palestinians resisting the occupation non-violently through the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). LA-based Garik has been deeply involved in local struggles for racial and environmental justice over the years.

ROUND TABLE PANELISTS:

 
Amani Al-Hindi Barakat, Palestinian-American community organizer, refugee born in Kuwait, and originally from the village of Tantoura in the suburbs of Haifa. Currently the National Chair of Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and a board member of the newly launched Palestine Foundation; organizer of many of So-Cal Palestinian Solidarity actions.

Alfredo Gama,
 member Papalotl Brown Berets; undocumented (illegal) youth organizer; organizer of many of the recent large immigration #NoWallNoRaid protests in the Los Angeles area.

Robert Gardnerstudent activist; member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UCLA, who has been targeted by ultra rightwing Zionists for his activities; a senior studying Political Science, African American Studies, and Urban Planning.

Nana Gyamfi, member and co-founder of Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, a network of attorneys and non-attorneys dedicated to providing legal support for the Movement for Black Lives, which includes BLMLA; represented all the BLMLA members who were arrested/had court cases/went to trial from 2014 – 2016; will continue to represent BLMLA members who ask for representation. 

Michael Letwin, 
NYC public defender; former president, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; 1960s-1970s L.A. youth activist (Red Tide); co-founder of New York City Labor Against the War, Labor for Palestine, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock.

Lydia Ponce, organizer with American Indian Movement-SoCal; Idle No More LA; lead organizer of all the many #NoDAPL protests in LA.

Ameena Mirza Qazi, Executive Director of the LA chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. A civil rights attorney and activist; she has worked on free speech, social and economic justice, discrimination, First Amendment, equal protection, and procedural due process issues, including #NoWallNoBan.

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS: 
Al-Awda the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Indian Movement (AIM) So-Cal, California for Progress, Idle No More LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Standing Rock and LA4Palestine, March and Rally Los Angeles.

 
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Labor and Women’s Rights Movement Plan Ambitious Mass Protests to Fight Trumpism (Alternet)