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Progressive, but not on Palestine

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 09: Police cordon the entry of the Israeli Embassy during a "Protest for Jerusalem" outside the Israeli Embassy in London, United Kingdom on May 9, 2021. This is a series of protests which will be held also in Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford against the planned evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem this week. ( Vudi Xhymshiti - Anadolu Agency )
Police cordon the entry of the Israeli Embassy during a 'Protest for Jerusalem' outside the Israeli Embassy in London, United Kingdom on May 9, 2021 [Vudi Xhymshiti - Anadolu Agency]

One of the perennial frustrations on the pro-Palestine left is the issue of allegedly socialist or liberal politicians who seem to have a blind spot when it comes to issue of Palestine.

In other words, they are Progressives Except for Palestine, or PEPs.

Things are not as bad as they once were. The influence of "Labour Zionism" on the Western left is thankfully in a rather abject historic decline, partly because of the terminal decline of the so-called Zionist left within Israel itself.

The Israeli Labour Party won a mere seven seats in the latest Knesset election, only one more than the ultra-right-wing Religious Zionism faction which is run by openly racist Kahanist fanatics.

Once the leading party of government, the Israeli Labour Party (or its political antecedents) carried out most of Israel's worst historic crimes, including the 1948 Nakba, or mass expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from 78 per cent of historic Palestine.

Any real leftist or progressive should welcome the Israeli Labour Party's decline. The problem is though that the alternatives are no better. So, the problem is not with this Israeli government or that Israeli government – the problem is with the racist structure of the state of Israel itself.

READ: Palestine will not be the same after another Aqsa Intifada

The problem, in a word, is Zionism.

Zionism is the belief that the indigenous Palestinians can and should be pushed out and expelled to make way for Jewish settlers from all around the world – a Jewish state.

Zionism is racism, but for many politicians ostensibly on the Western left, Zionism and the state of Israel's war crimes and apartheid against the Palestinian people are a glaring omission.

Take US Congresswoman, Alexander Ocasio-Cortez.

While she was running in the primary election in 2018, he told her progressive activist base what they wanted to hear: "This is a massacre," she tweeted, "No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else."

In the spring of that year Israel murdered hundreds and maimed thousands of non-violent, unarmed young Palestinian protestors who were demanding their basic human rights on the Gaza boundary line.

This made quite a change from the usual pandering to Israel by US politicians. Ocasio-Cortez was smart enough to see which way the wind has been blowing: for a decade or more now, opinion polls on both sides of the Atlantic have consistently shown that the mass-bases of both main progressive political parties (the Democrats and Labour) are increasingly sympathetic with the Palestinians and more and more critical of Israel.

But unfortunately, it transpired that Ocasio-Cortez's support for basic Palestinian human rights was not principled or concrete, but strictly opportunistic. It evaporated as soon as she got into office.

And recently this process has only continued to deepen. The most woeful example of this came last month when she participated in an online propaganda event run by a far-right Israel lobby group.

There was a lot of attention and (deserved) mocking of Ocasio-Cortez's word-salad of an answer in which she rambled about "the what and the how" of "peace between Israelis and Palestinians".

But far more concerning in my view were other aspects of her interview – along with the fact that she was even collaborating with the group in the first place.

The Israel lobby group, the JCRC-NY, is a far-right group which, as my colleague at The Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah reported: "promotes a host of far-right anti-Palestinian organizations, including CAMERA, HonestReporting, Palestinian Media Watch and Our Soldiers Speak, a propaganda organization for the Israeli military."

Michael S Miller, the same Israel lobby propagandist who was interviewing Ocasio-Cortez "has attacked the New York chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, of which Ocasio-Cortez is a 'superstar' member." Predictably, Miller smeared DSA as "anti-Semitic" for its criticisms of Israel.

So clearly for opportunists like Ocasio-Cortez, pandering to right-wing racist extremists like Michael S Miller was far more important than standing next to her own "comrades" at the DSA.

READ: Israel can't impose its own laws to evict Palestinians, UN rights group says

Unprincipled indeed.

Elsewhere in her friendly little chat with Miller, Ocasio-Cortez enthusiastically gushed about Israel's supposed advances in green technologies. This is a common Israeli government propaganda technique, known as greenwashing.

Even were it true that Israel has more advanced technologies (and in point of fact these supposed advances are often greatly exaggerated and overhyped) that would not justify Israel's crimes against the Palestinians – which is almost always the subtext of Israeli greenwashing claims.

Ocasio-Cortez has also said nothing about Israeli apartheid – though even the pro-US-imperialism group Human Rights Watch has now finally admitted that Israel is guilty of apartheid.

Ocasio-Cortez won't even do that.

As Michael Brown, another of my colleagues put it this week, "to see progressives stand silent is a tougher blow as hope there was higher."

It's time we held all politicians to account, even ones we like – especially the ones we like.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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