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The Civil Rights Movement Was More Than a String of Protests and Press Releases

13 Aug

Last week, Gawker published a piece called ‘Here’s Proof That Black Lives Matter Protests Are Working’. Its author, Andy Cush, devoted the better part of the article to highlighting new polling data indicating a significant upward trend in American recognition (including among whites) “that the fight for equal rights is not over.”

A heartening finding, and one undoubtedly owing mainly to the courageous work of Black Lives Matter. I’m proud to have played a small role in that work. And I intend to continue showing up and lending my support in whatever way I can.

The problem is the punchline Cush tacks on, which is both predictable and mistaken:

Those who argue that forceful demonstrations only serve to entrench people in the positions they’ve already taken are wrong. People are changing their minds. Just like it did for the suffrage movement 100 years ago or civil rights in the ‘60s, public protest is working in 2015. Now all we need is some meaningful policy change.

The analogy between the Civil Rights movement and BLM is a commonplace in journalistic commentary. But all too often, superficial history and editorial predilection for neat, emotionally compelling formulations combine to efface crucial–if less salient–features of the Second Reconstruction.

Just two days after Gawker declared that the BLM demonstrations have charted a course to the edge of “meaningful policy change”, The Root published an essay bearing the same premature triumphalism:

Some seem to think we’ve reached a point in time where the right to vote has replaced the need to disrupt the system—although the right to vote itself has yet to be secured. Rights are signed into law by the legislature, but history shows that the legislative pen moves in accordance with the pressure of organized protest and disruption in the streets.

This moment requires bold action and disruption of business as usual for the same reasons it was required in Birmingham in 1963.
[…]
If we are wrong now, King was wrong then. If King was right then, we are right now.

The author of this rousing homily, the film maker and activist Bree Newsome, boasts an impressive record of accomplishments that includes everyone’s favorite Mitt Romney parody rap video:

More recently Newsome made the news for staging a badass direct action to remove the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina State House “in the name of God.”

But if the affirmation closing her piece–”The movement lives.”–is correct, it points to something nascent and anemic.   

Black Lives Matter is, at the moment, a diffuse protest movement without solid objectives or strong organizational grounding. Even those closest to its founding express uncertainty about its concrete aims, insofar as these are still being developed and debated:

The point to me is to be able to dig into these questions as opposed to being prescriptive about what the answers are.

In the same way, we are living in political moment where for the first time in a long time we are talking about alternatives to capitalism…It is a political moment that’s opening up opportunities to envision a world where people can actually live in dignity. So whether that’s abolishing a criminal justice system that feeds off the labor and the lives of black and brown people, whether that’s abolishing an economic system that thrives on exploitation, poverty and misery: this is the time for us to not just dream about what could be, but also start to build alternatives that we want to see.
[…]
Quite honestly I’m not sure we can have both [policing and the valuing of black lives]…because the institution of policing is rooted in the legacy of catching slaves.

Adolph Reed, a Penn political scientist and veteran of left struggles dating back to the 60s, has been critical of young activists who see themselves as mature heirs to the Civil Rights Movement simply because they stage demonstrations against various iterations of racial injustice. Such identification reflects inadequate understanding of the achievements of the American black social movements of the 1940s-60s and how they were won: namely, through long term, disciplined organizing work rooted in tough-minded, adaptive political strategy. Moreover, the efficacy of these tactics was largely a function of unflagging commitment to serious, hard-wrought political objectives.

As Reed instructively points out in a 2009 essay,

 The postwar activism that reached its crescendo in the South as the “civil rights movement” wasn’t a movement against a generic “racism;” it was specifically and explicitly directed toward full citizenship rights for black Americans and against the system of racial segregation that defined a specific regime of explicitly racial subordination in the South. The 1940s March on Washington Movement was also directed against specific targets, like employment discrimination in defense production. Black Power era and post-Black Power era struggles similarly focused on combating specific inequalities and pursuing specific goals like the effective exercise of voting rights and specific programs of redistribution.

Whether or not one considers those goals correct or appropriate, they were clear and strategic in a way that “antiracism” simply is not. Sure, those earlier struggles relied on a discourse of racial justice, but their targets were concrete and strategic. It is only in a period of political demobilization that the historical specificities of those struggles have become smoothed out of sight in a romantic idealism that homogenizes them into timeless abstractions like “the black liberation movement”

I’ve bolded the striking repetition of these adjectives because it highlights a crucial deficiency holding back Black Lives Matter from the status of the 20th century social movements to which it is so often compared. This same deficiency hamstrung Occupy, which has also been congratulated for effecting a shift in national discourse (but, to my chagrin at least, little else of substance).

As early as the 1940s, well before the 60s’ demonstrations pointed out by Gawker, “a civil rights alliance emerged among liberals, leftists, and trade unionists, both black and white.” The Democratic Party formally endorsed civil rights in 1948 while the NAACP eroded the regime of segregation in the legal arena. Following the watershed 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling against segregated schools, the movement’s strategy of “disruption” became focused around enforcing the rights of black Americans. “It became clear that only the federal government could enforce the law, but national leaders acted only under duress.” Toward the goals of ending segregation and ensuring black enfranchisement, the “main question for civil rights activists became how to make the federal government take action to implement the law.” (Van Gosse, The Movements of the New Left, pp. 5-6)

Thus, in the words of historian John Patrick Diggins, “the southern antisegregation campaign was basically a moral protest entirely within the spirit of the law.” The movement was focused on implementing the desegregation mandated by the Brown decision and realizing the fundamental constitutional rights of black Americans enshrined in the 14th and 15th amendments, which for “a century the South had been able to circumvent”. (The Rise and Fall of the American Left, 238) 

It was a movement spearheaded by robust organizations like CORE and SNCC, which recruited activists of all colors to run voter registration drives, freedom schools, and strategically orchestrated civil disobedience. And it was not aimed primarily at abstractions like “white supremacy”, nor did it issue extensive and transiently composed lists of demands spanning issues ranging from trans* rights to immigration to the occupation of Palestine.

Politics involves real conflict between competing interests; political struggles have winners and losers. There are real enemies facing liberals, leftists, and underprivileged/marginalized groups of all stripes in the US. Jodi Dean concisely runs down some key recent victories of the forces of reaction:

In the United States, the right has worked actively to reframe the constitution according to a theory of the unitary executive, to reverse the steps taken toward racial equality by undercutting Brown v. the Board of Education, to facilitate the redistribution of wealth to the top one percent of the population, to undermine the Geneva conventions as well as habeas corpus, to empower unwarranted state surveillance of the population, and to install a narrow, extreme, version of fundamentalist Christian doctrine into scientific discussions of evolution and climate change so as to disable any supposition of a common world or reality for which we might share responsibility. These are political achievements.

Without clear, concrete goals, and strong organizational networks to coordinate strategies and sustain efforts toward the realization of those goals, a resistance movement is unlikely to make significant gains against the established order. The reversals faced by working people generally, and people of color particularly, over the past three decades call for the mobilization of politically serious social movements, ones that can win.

The statement appearing under the heading ‘Who We Are’ on the homepage of the Outside Agitators group, which disrupted Bernie Sanders’s rally in Seattle, closes with a quotation reading, “This ain’t your daddy’s civil rights movement”. They are right.

Quick Take on Black Lives Matter vs. Bernie Sanders: Redux

8 Aug

The Netroots action was effective because it embarrassed Sanders into incorporating direct, vocal support for Black Lives Matter into his campaign rhetoric. Insofar as he is–as his defensive supporters were quick to point out–the most progressive (visible) candidate participating in the interminable election pageantry, it actually makes political sense for a progressive movement like BLM to pressure him into backing its agenda.

I can’t say the same of Saturday’s Seattle intervention, at least based on the sonically muffled video:

The BLM activists who employed disruptive tactics at Netroots won traction and respect from many observers because they came across as serious. I know more than a few radical-averse liberals who were openly irritated by the direct action but nonetheless recognized the fundamental legitimacy of protesters bringing a marginalized message to bear on a politically influential figure.

The Seattle protesters, by contrast, give the impression that their express purpose was to take the mic and scream condemnation in Bernie Sanders’ face, as though he were a blameworthy target for the rage of the city’s oppressed people of color. And I can’t see how that makes any sense, factually or strategically.

Brief Reflection On #CancelColbert

28 Mar

What most agitates me about this brouhaha is that it already happened on a somewhat smaller scale last October when The Onion took a far more provocative stab at satirizing the same guy with essentially the same joke.

I have an acute memory of noticing The Onion’s inflammatory headline in my twitter feed the morning the article was posted. And I remember immediately taking a depressingly sibylline inventory of who would be dripping with scornful outrage, who would be saying “I appreciate your concerns but I’m also okay with this style of humor,” and who would use it as an occasion to indulge their gluttonous appetite for cruelty by gleefully antagonizing vulnerable people.

Dan Snyder—the intended target of the lampoon—and his qualitatively more egregious offenses were secondary here because they’d already been etched into the national conversation. Already at that juncture, as per our discursively preoccupied political culture, it would feel redundant for bloggers and tweeting micropundits to keep up visible apoplexy over Snyder. In the realm of social media, even the squares and politically apathetic old people were more-likely-than-not to have already gotten wind of the debate over a football team’s beloved racist iconography and taken a fixed position on it.

The appearance of antisemitic language on the homepage of a smart and increasingly leftist (fake) news outlet with considerable cachet, however, was striking—and it was something new to talk about.

On the woefully fissiparous Left, riven more than ever by the growing fashionability of neo-Mau Mauer posturing via twitter and tumblr—what, for better or worse, Mark Fisher has dubbed the Vampire Castlewe know what happens when a proud Castlevanian catches sight of a hip publication stepping into the ambit of a controversy and onto terrain that, prima facie, bears any resemblance to The Wrong Side. Namely, she perceives an opportunity to assert her social media-anchored, outrage-fueled identity. (Often, said identity is imbued with some quantum of careerist ambition: it’s hard not to see Suey Park, whatever her merits, in this light.) If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck—viz. the kind of duck that makes cavalier use of ethnic slurs—then there will be a widespread impulse on the cultural Left to seize on it full bore, even if it seems obvious that any intelligent person (and I’d never dispute that the Castle crowd is generally a bright one) would have to squint and plug their ears to maintain the conflation.

The truth hiding in plain sight is that in neither this instance nor yesterday’s Colbert controversy has the energy investment on display in the social media blow-up been easy to square with how one imagines a seriously committed activist would spend her time in the struggle against racism in American society (a manifold phenomenon, to be sure). Listen, I know what concern trolling is. But the disparity here between any serious triage of racist injustices and what thousands of twitter activists apparently deem worthy targets for hours of teeth-grinding dissent and resistance is so immense that it’s amazing one has to point it out at all.

Accordingly, I judge this intervention to be much too long already (and myself to be more bound up with Castlevania’s social ecology than I’d like to admit). That said, I won’t pretend I’m entitled to a posture of repose, as one sitting in judgment at a healthy distance above the fray—as if I didn’t also reflexively fall into one of the three predictable camps, as if being Jewish really allows me to have no stake whatsoever in prominent appearances of antisemitic language—so I’ll lay my cards on the table directly (even though you’ve already correctly placed me in your own mental inventory): both times I found the over-the-top style slightly grating, but wholeheartedly appreciated the spirit of the satire. I think it made better use of the same caustic outrage at injustice it inevitably attracted. And regardless of what might be problematic in this position, it bears asking why a position on something so relatively trivial should matter so much on the Left.

Update: The extraordinary traffic this post has generated with scarcely any self-promotion (and the giddy buzz said attention ineluctably generates in even the most staid blogger’s ego) inclines me to believe my cynicism is well-founded: that is, outrage-oriented “twitter activism”  primarily runs on attention-seeking and careerist brand-building desires. Enlightened thirst for justice and political change are indisputably in the mix, much in the same way that Jason Newsted’s bass tracks are indisputably in the mix on Metallica’s …And Justice For All album

Rashid Khalidi in Brooklyn Pt. 2: “You never know when a tipping point is going to come.”

16 Nov

The educator’s spirit I alluded to in my first post on Khalidi’s talk was very much on display during that night’s Q&A.

While there were a few pointed and enlightening inquiries, the degree of background knowledge evinced by audience questions was often nil or, in the case of broad questions based on erroneous assumptions, less.

Khalidi handled confused questioners graciously–far better than many academics who’ve put in years speaking on this issue to a painfully ignorant and misinformed public. When an elderly Egyptian man used his turn at the microphone for a rambling five minute sermon exhorting Muslims and Jews to honor their ancient religious-Abrahamic kinship, Khalidi looked tired but, smiling, waited it out.


The Q&A’s high point came when Noor Elashi, daughter of Holy Land 5 prisoner Ghassan Elashi, stepped up to the mic to speak about her father and the plight of Palestinian political prisoners.*

To be immodestly frank, it was a relief just to hear an informed and specific query. 

Since I probably sound like an asshole, I should clarify that I don’t begrudge anyone their right to speak and be heard in a public forum, nor do I mean to slight those less-informed audience members who participated. On the contrary, it’s a heartening fact that so many older (esp. white and Jewish) Americans are taking an interest in long-misunderstood Palestine.

And it was precisely this spectacle of dozens of older and, it would seem, previously disinterested people flocking to hear an Arab-American academic deliver a historico-political critique of American and Israeli policy that ultimately brought me to the microphone queue.

The event was already running long and the last few responses had seen Khalidi’s animated hand gestures begin to lose steam. But, perhaps a bit selfishly, I hopped up to fill the void where the moderator’s “Was there one more question or shall we conclude?” was at first met with silence.

Below is a transcript of my question and Khalidi’s reply (very much worth reading in full), edited slightly for clarity.



William Brown
[i.e. me]: I’m curious as to how much of an impact changing public opinion, and specifically Jewish opinion, can have on US foreign policy without first dislodging 1. AIPAC and 2. Evangelical Christian Zionism. People like Peter Beinart, Norman Finkelstein, and others have documented that large swaths of the US population are changing their attitudes and their views toward Israel. But without overcoming those daunting pro-Israel power blocs, it doesn’t seem like they can do all that much–can they?

Rashid Khalidi: Well, your question brings up a couple things.

One is the fact that it’s clear that the basis for support for the kinds of policies that this Israeli government is engaged in has moved to a very large extent in American political life to the right of the American political spectrum. It’s no longer quite as strongly supported in a bipartisan fashion. It’s really a Tea Party-rightwing Republican-South West bastion.

Those are areas where, as you say, among many other things Christian Zionism [is significant]–[but] it’s also a worldview where force is absolutely necessary because the world is hostile. It’s more than just Christian Zionism. It’s more than just whatever attitudes people have toward Muslims. It’s a whole worldview about how the United States should perceive the world and about the use of military force. And Israel fits right into that. And so that’s why some of these people are as vehemently in favor of occupation, settlement, and Israeli aggression, and so on and so forth, as they are.

I don’t think, in spite of the fact that there has been that shift, I don’t think that it’s unimportant to pay attention to and try to further the kinds of transformations that are taking place among younger people in the Jewish communities, among students generally, among Churches, [and] in some unions. You are beginning actually to see significant movement in all of these groups–most importantly, I think, young people on campuses.

When I was an undergraduate, it was not permissible to even talk about Palestine. The idea of a group on dozens of campuses called Students for Justice in Palestine was unimaginable…You have…Turath, Arab Students and Muslim Students, Students for Justice [in Palestine], Campaign to End the Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace–[three to six] groups on a given campus operating more-or-less in coordination–[this was] inconceivable twenty years ago. Inconceivable! So something has happened with younger people.

One thing is that they’re no longer in thrall to the mainstream media because nobody reads news sources made of dead trees anymore. I know graduate students…who’ve never actually seen a physical New York Times, although they read like fifty other sources online. So the access that they have to information is completely different [than] their elders’. And that has helped enormously. They disbelieve what is in the mainstream media, so…the lies, the Orwellian language–they’re not really affected by it, they don’t see it. And I think that’s helped a lot.

Now a lot of people are being indoctrinated in other ways, so it’s not the case that everybody at every university is exposed to all sides of the issue, but that change is [still] enormously important. The change in a lot of mainstream Protestant churches is very important. The change in a lot of parts of the Jewish community, especially younger parts of the Jewish community–those are really important things.

And I think as time goes on, the task of AIPAC and the myriad organizations with zillions of dollars at their disposal will operate in the public sphere harder and harder. The media is still pretty much occupied territory, Capitol Hill is completely occupied territory. But outside of those very important and crucial bastions, I would not like to be fighting the other side of this issue because they have no moral case whatsoever, there’s not much of a strategic case in my view, and a lot of the myths that were so essential to the early decades of Israel’s establishment and expansion, and the way in which it fixed itself in the American mind, have much more of a hold over people in their 70s and their 60s and their 50s than they do over people in their 20s or 30s.

You know, the connection between the Holocaust and Israel, the idea that Israel was on the verge of extermination in the [June 19]67 war–these are articles of faith among people much older than you. Articles of faith. Not for everybody, there’s lots of smart 70-year-olds and 60-year-olds who figured it out–just look at most of the people in this room! [*laughter*]–but that stuff just doesn’t cut any ice with you[nger people], including people who see themselves as very pro-Israel. They just don’t believe it. They know it’s not true or it doesn’t make any sense. That’s really important. And it’s not been replaced with anything equally powerful.

I mean, I speak to groups who never would have received me decades ago and it’s clear that the other ones don’t have the kinds of absolute vehement certitudes that the older ones had. So that change is very, very important.

Where it leads in terms of politics in the future, I don’t know. I can’t tell you.

I can tell you what I see when I go around. Something I see on campuses is a level of activism that I’ve never, you know–unimaginable, even a decade ago. BDS is changing things, Jewish Voice for Peace is. There are a few groups, four of five of them. The amazing thing is, each of them is following its own path, each is doing something slightly different. But they have enough of a level of coordination that it all works to bring more information.

I mean, look–this was an issue on which there was one side in this country from the dawn of Zionism right up until the 70s or 80s. There was only one side to this story, you couldn’t find a book that told you the other side. It was unavailable, it didn’t exist. Or if it did it was very, very hard to find.

Well today, it’s hard to find…properly vetted, respectable academic publications that don’t at least pay serious lip service to both sides of the issue. And a lot of great scholarship–historical or sociological or anthropological or literary–which tells the whole story and gives you entirely different narratives that weren’t available to anybody 30 or 40 years ago.

So, in academia, anybody who actually studies the issue, whatever your political positions are, you’re going to know things today, you will be exposed to things today, that were impossible to find out about 40 years ago. Whatever your views were, if you were pro-Palestinian or whatever–it didn’t matter. You couldn’t know those things unless you were yourself a first-person researcher out in the field.

Well, any graduate student, any undergraduate, has access…and I’m talking about academic stuff. And then there’s the internet, and they can find out about what’s actually happening today in real time.

So, I think those are very important changes. And I think that stuff that in one sense seems like it’s not moving in some senses moves much faster. You can see that in Egyptian and other transformations that have taken place.

Think of the things that have happened in Egypt since 2010–in less than 3 years. Amazing things have happened very rapidly that were unimaginable thirty or forty years ago. So stuff can happen very quickly. I could give you examples from Lebanese or Palestinian or other cases of people’s views changing very rapidly. I’m not saying that’s definitely going to happen, but it can. And so you never know when a tipping point is going to come, you never know when suddenly opposition is going to become completely indefensible.


*Originally I had intended for this post to include an excerpt from Ms. Elashi’s contribution and Khalidi’s response. Unfortunately, my audio of this portion of the evening is particularly rough. If there’s any serious interest in this, let me know in the comments and I can try to produce an accurate transcript.

Re: My lawn, damn kids, emancipatory social struggle, etc.

11 Nov

Let’s take a neat quiz I found on facebook. The version that appears below has been slightly amended.

Tools of Social Justice
or

D. A willfully obtuse 4,000 word tumblr post of apoplectic PC cant calling out fellow activists for their insufficient outrage at how THAT POP STAR did something VAGUELY OFFENSIVE.

With Parks & Recreation gifs.

Because if there’s one thing that unfailingly dumbfounds bigots and empowers disenfranchised communities in equal measure, it’s boring, insipid sitcoms where white people talk to the camera about their frivolous non-problems.

I’ll give those of you playing along at home a minute to deliberate.

…Okay, pencils down, you miscreants.

Aaaand–surprise!: the answer was

E. None of the above.

Hooray! Summer school for EVERYONE!

I look forward to feigning disapproval at your sexy pleas for leniency after class.

Seriously, even if we assume that certain violent means of achieving Social Justice are both effective and justifiable, since when has a brick gotten the pseudo-Fanonian CrimethInc. poseurs who favor them anything but cracked skulls and prison?

Oh! Maybe it’s supposed to be for constructing office buildings so your militant political org’s planning committee can set up a permanent base of operations…?

C. it is.

Rashid Khalidi in Brooklyn Pt. 1: “If you want to understand anti-Americanism in the Arab world, look first and foremost to the Palestine issue.”

10 Nov

The first time you see Rashid Khalidi launch into one of his strident cri de coeurs, punctuated by fierce hand gestures and presided over by an intense, indomitable gaze, it can be a little unnerving.

But Khalidi’s indignation at the widespread misconceptions and propagandistic falsehoods which inform both popular and governmental understandings of Israel-Palestine in the US is tempered by an amiable and generous pedagogic spirit. After hearing the veteran Columbia historian speak last Wednesday at a Brooklyn For Peace-organized talk in downtown Brooklyn, I have little doubt as to the primacy of that educator’s spirit.

As I stumbled in a few minutes after 7pm, I noticed that the audience–predictably large, filling the capacious meeting hall nearly to capacity–was on the whole much older than I’d expected. Mostly folks in the 60s-and-up demographic–what I’d call “retirement age,” if such a thing could still be taken for granted–wearing the frowny, impatient countenances of veteran New Yorkers. The middle-aged crowd marginally outnumbered millennial BDS booster types among the rest.

The lecture centered on the malign American role in the past three decades of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Khalidi published a groundbreaking book on the subject in March of this year called Brokers of Deceit. You can read a reliable and insightful review of the book by historian Vijay Prashad here; and here is a clip of Khalidi answering questions about the book in, fittingly enough, Jerusalem.

For the last leg of the talk, Khalidi bridged the exposition of his book with some (partially extemporaneous) commentary on John Kerry’s ongoing efforts to jumpstart that interminable farce we call the “Peace Process.” The professor’s take was, predictably, almost wholly negative (“A fool’s errand!”)–and rightly so.

For Khalidi, these latest negotiations represent the continuation of a policy that dates back at least as far as the aftermath of Menachem Begin’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Khalidi characterizes this policy as one of US diplomats rhetorically posturing as unbiased mediators while actively closing ranks with Israel. This game, he informs us, of necessity always ends badly for the Palestinians.

Looking backward, on the basis of what I’ve just talked about, it’s pretty clear that the United States up to this point has in fact made a settlement much less likely. I’m very wary of making predictions…but I would offer that it is impossible to build anything lasting on the kind of rotten foundation that the United States has already established through its orchestration of this process.

We have a situation here where parties are negotiating on the basis of gaping inequality. One is occupier, one is occupied. The ostensible mediator overtly favors the stronger party. You have to know that it’s a big fat American thumb pushing the scale down even further on the side of the overwhelmingly dominant party.

The Olso accords and all the agreements thereafter, which form the basis of this process, are entirely based on Israeli blueprints–Begin’s blueprints for expansive Israeli settlements, actually–that were intended to prevent an equitable two-state settlement.[1]

I think Begin has basically succeeded. I don’t think a Palestinian state is very likely. Whatever transpires with…Secretary Kerry…these conditions seem to guarantee the outcome will not be a just and lasting peace in which the Palestinian people end their century-long odyssey and where both peoples end up living in peace and justice and security, whether it’s in one-state or two-state or some kind of federal arrangement …

The process that the Secretary of State is engaged in cannot produce such an outcome. It can only extend into the future the entirely unsatisfactory status quo.

As to whether we might hope to see any positive change in this state of affairs (of which “unsatisfactory” is a pretty understated assessment), Khalidi would by night’s end address several key sticking points. Regarding the role of the Arab states, he made the following diagnosis:

This [US] policy can only continue as long as undemocratic governments continue to dominate the Arab world. Governments like that of Saudi Arabia. These governments have basically capitulated on this issue. They talk a good game where Palestine is concerned, but in no case have they been willing to put the Palestine issue at the top of their agenda with Washington. In no case have they been willing to jeopardize their relationship with Washington over this issue. And the main reason that this is the case is that none of these are democratic governments. They don’t respond to the wishes of their people. People in the Arab world are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Palestinians and completely baffled as to why the United States should follow the policies it does.

If you want to understand anti-Americanism in the Arab world, look first and foremost to the Palestine issue. It poisons everything else.

In a follow-up post I’ll include a transcript of Khalidi’s remarks on the transformative potential of changing popular opinion vis-à-vis Palestine. The sound on my recording is a little fuzzy here and there, so it might be a few days before I’ll have time for the painstaking work of jamming an earbud into my osseous labyrinth while I relisten to the same 4 second chunks of audio ad nauseam.

[1] Here’s the same analysis explained more carefully in Brokers of Deceit:

If one examines them carefully, there can be no question about it: the Camp David agreements, the Madrid framework, and the Oslo Accords on the one hand, and the Palestinian Authority and the permanent occupation and settlement regime that resulted from this structure of commitments on the other, all of these things, summed up in the term “the peace process,” are in the end one single construct. This construct is and was always designed by its Israeli architects (and their American subcontractors) to be an impermeable barrier against true Palestinian emancipation, rather than a route in that direction. Thus, this construct does not, cannot, and is expressly meant not to, address the roots of the conflict, which lie in the unending subjugation of the Palestinians, and their refusal to accept their lot. We should not be surprised: all of these elements are inextricably bound to a scheme originally devised by Menachem Begin to avoid such emancipation, and to ensure permanent Israeli control of, and settlement in, the occupied territories, the core of what Begin called “Eretz Israel.” Israel’s pitiless occupation regime not only guarantees more oppression and Palestinian resistance to this oppression. It also guarantees continued, bitter resentment of the United States for helping to devise, uphold, and defend this regime, a resentment felt particularly acutely in the Arab and Islamic worlds, in much of Europe, and beyond, where these realities are concealed from almost no one. (135)

A Raspberry to My Anarchist Friends on the Cultural Left…

5 Nov

…whose sanctimonious claim to sole arbiter status over discursive racism is worth humbling, and whose uncritically inherited antipathy to Marxism (not to mention European Social Democracy) is worth picking at.

From Foucault’s 1975-76 lectures at the Collège de France, published as Society Must Be Defended:

The most racist forms of socialism were, therefore, Blanquism of course, and then the Commune, and then anarchism—much more so than social democracy, much more so than the Second International, and much more so than Marxism itself. Socialist racism was liquidated in Europe only at the end of the nineteenth century, and only by the domination of social democracy (and, it has to be said, by the reformism that was bound up with it)…and by a number of processes such as the Dreyfus affair in France…Until the Dreyfus affair, all socialists, or at least the vast majority of socialists, were basically racists.” (262-263)