I have met Barry Schiller personally and do not get the impression that he is a bigot or a raving lunatic apologist for child murderers. Instead, he strikes me as a typical middle-of-the-road progressive gentleman who unfortunately has not had the opportunity to totally deprogram himself of the illusions about the state of Israel and the question of Palestine.
I say this because, on the one hand, he writes a piece like this at RIFuture that is relatively sane, amicable and mature. But then you find him writing this recent one in the ProJo that is right out of the Irving Howe book of faux-left apologias for a country that has quite literally lost its mind with the exception of a small minority of dissidents who reject this perversion of their religion.
How can Schiller possibly find anything good to say about a culture that birthed an Israeli wedding where they celebrated the immolation of an infant? I am critical of the BDS platform myself but seriously support the nonviolence as well as the free speech aspect of the conversation.
And just to be clear, that story was not carried by some anti-Semitic kook website that would be selling The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, it was in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, considered the New York Times of that country! Here is what they wrote in their coverage:
In the video one can see dozens of teens and young men singing a song in praise of revenge, while holding up guns and knives. According to the report, the IDF-issue rifles and licensed pistols were passed around at the reception from hand to hand, including to children. Information about the wedding made its way to police, who intend to question those who were careless with their weapons and to revoke their gun licenses. The video was given to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who sent it on to local council heads of Jewish communities in the West Bank and met with several of them.
Now of course apologists for Israel who either still grip onto the last vestiges of progressive hasbara, the kind of stuff Irving Howe was known for, or are just brilliant charlatans will respond with discussion of how the Netanyahu government reacted appropriately and this was an aberration.
But this is just untrue. The extremists who danced for joy at the death of this Palestinian child in a ‘price tag’ attack are part of the settler movement, the equivalent of the American Evangelical voting bloc. Benjamin Netanyahu ascended to power and destroyed the Oslo process in the mid-1990’s by revving this demographic up to such an insane level that it was all but predictable that a lone shooter would target his opponent, Yitzak Rabin, and lead the country down a path that caused more bloodshed. (Whether Rabin was executing a peace process or an annexation process, to quote Dr. Norman Finkelstein, is another question that is skillfully answered in the film OCCUPATION OF THE AMERICAN MIND.) To claim the Prime Minister and his government in Israel have a hands-off approach to these religious fanatics is like saying Jimmy Carter was a hands-off type of guy.
At this point in history, the International Court and the weight of opinion in both the UN and public worldwide is in favor of a two-state solution on the pre-June 1967 borders. This opinion also says that the settlements and the blockade of Gaza are illegal and must cease to exist immediately, full stop and no conditionals on the side of the Palestinians. Anything less is Israeli rejectionism.
Schiller’s concern has to do with a recent bill, passed in the General Assembly, about refusing to do business with companies boycotting Israel. This is because a tremendous level of support has arisen over the past decade for Palestinians and now even mainstream labor unions are passing BDS efforts in their polity.
Rather than speculate, I figured I would go to an actual Constitutional lawyer, New York-based Stanley Cohen, a self-described Jewish anarchist from Manhattan, who has defended Palestinians over his career and was mentored by radical lawyer William Kunstler.
Cohen tells me that he finds the anti-BDS bills unconstitutional and a violation of the inter-state commerce clause, the right of speech, the right of free association, as well as potentially an illegal separation of powers issue.
The fact is that, if you read Gideon Levy in Haaretz, you get a succinct understanding of what he describes as
[T]he Israeli average – the brainwashed mood of the majority, the people who shoot and cry, who love themselves to death and pity themselves ad nauseam, who self-victimize and accuse others, innocent of all guilt and certain of their absolute rightness.
It comes as a shock to many progressives who think they have an enlightened liberal view of the Middle East to learn the opinions they espouse are consider hawkish and to the right of the political spectrum of Israel. But such is life. Being adult includes the ability not to have a fit when shown new evidence and learn to adopt new positions based on this evidence.
I would hope Barry and folks like him might be able to watch this video, shot at Left Forum this spring, featuring Tariq Ali, a secular Pakistani, and Norman Finkelstein, the son of two Nazi holocaust survivors, discussing the coordinates of where struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine might exist. I hope Barry Schiller might join in such a struggle, recalling Edward Said’s favorite quote from Aimé Césaire “There’s room for everyone at the rendezvous of victory.”