August 28, 2011

Out of UNGA ideas? So protest!

Rallies and protests are an important vehicle for articulating communal solidarity, and sometimes -- as with the Soviet Jewry movement -- for effecting real change. I have been to many Jewish and pro-Israel rallies, even organized a few, and I expect to do many more. Given next month's line-up, however, I don't see myself grabbing the bull horn.

I believe the annual Jewish protests across from the UN, opposing Iran's nuclear program, probably impact no UN votes. But as a community member, I have no problem following the consensus of my colleagues and fellow Jews, participating as one voice in solidarity. We have a duty to speak out, and that goes for other causes like Gilad Shalit, too.

So where am I drawing the line this Jewish holiday protest season?


I am not ready to rally against what I and many others consider to be Israel's reckless neglect of credible or good-faith peace efforts (call me old-fashioned, but as an American Jew, I just don't ). I have even had an opportunity to be helpful behind the scenes in repairing some of the damage caused. But that doesn't mean I'm prepared to show up across from the UN to rally against the Palestinian end-run (even if it is a bad idea) -- I do not wish to add my voice to a protest that will be viewed (and intended) as an endorsement of Netanyahu's narrative. It is ridiculous to suggest that the current Israeli government has taken any meaningful steps to even test the Palestinian leadership or cooperate with U.S. efforts. [see my recent post] It's much easier to stage a media spectacle of Jews basically protesting self-determination for Palestinians.


I do not believe we have a duty to rally against -- and bring undeserved publicity to -- what's been dubbed "Durban III", an otherwise low-grade commemoration of ten years since the infamous World Conference Against Racism, which singled out Israel in some nasty ways. The original Durban event angered me both as a supporter of Israel and as a fighter against racism, because governments chose bashing Israel over a disciplined statement empowering victims and defenders of human rights. But we made that point long ago, and enough governments are staying away this time that it's not necessary to keep raising public alarms -- the fight against racism really is too important for us to tarnish that brand just to score some points. The horse is dead, that dog won't hunt, and -- even in these dire times -- as creative Jews we should be able to find a proactive agenda to promote.

In the absence of positive issues to promote, and without proactive tactics to impact the genuine looming dangers, we face another season of calls to demonstrate and protest and to congratulate ourselves for it. It does seem easier than coming up with new strategies, or dare one say, taking up the hard work and challenge needed for a credible (i.e., credible) American/Jewish/Israeli call for lasting Middle East peace. Or are we relieved of that obligation because the Palestinians are so unreliable? My bad.

[Postscript: As some of my prior posts reflect, though I have no interest in rallies that have no impact on UN decisions while bolstering the resistance to realistic policies on the ground, I actively support advocacy and lobbying at the DIPLOMATIC level to try to avert a counter-productive, premature resolution on Palestinian statehood.]

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