By Susan Wilcox, CSJ
Today, I spoke with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in front of the Shirley Chisolm Post Office at his “Congress on Your Corner” event. My congressman votes pretty much in line with my politics in the limited way that politics operates, except on the issue of aid to Israel.
I’m in agreement with the United Nations and most of the world community that Israel has violated international law and committed war crimes with its siege on Gaza. I referenced a speech that he gave at a pro-Israel rally held in New York this week in which he announced, “Brooklyn is for Israel!” I told him I took issue with his statement because I have spent time at Brooklyn For Peace’s 10+ day vigil at a park in my neighborhood. And as I talked with people, they don’t seem to be “for Israel.” They are mostly either horrified at the atrocities committed by the Israeli Defense Forces, or they are ambivalent, stating that they don’t really know the facts. Brooklyn for Peace, many of whom are Jews themselves, have helped with this educational deficit and have collected over 1,500 signatures from neighbors asking the US government to de-fund the over-$3 billion aid package to Israel.
I also reported to Congressman Jeffries that when Israel-Palestine is framed in terms of a giant gentrification project, people, “get it” in relation to their own lives. They “get it” because Brooklynites are laying seize to massive displacement under gentrification especially in neighborhoods of color backed by NYPD’s “Broken Windows” and Stop, Question, Frisk policies. He responded that he had not been exposed to that framing of the issue and did find it interesting. However, his policy decisions were based on that fact that he represented a large section of Russian Jews in Brooklyn who are in support of Israel; that Hamas was a terrorist organization incapable of negotiation toward a two-state solution; and that Israel had a right to protect itself. I took issue with his analysis that all of the most knowledgeable experts in the region advocate for a two-state solution, of which he did not argue further — but asked me, what would I suggest?
I suggest moving away from this very black-and-white, binary point of view to a deeper and longer point of view. An example of a deeper analysis is that Hamas is essentially a creation of Israel, just as most of what we in the US term “terrorists” are creations of the entities that oppose them. He actually agreed with me on this. By this, I mean that when circumstances are created by powerful authorities whose stated goals are to displace or eradicate a people based on race and/or religion, one can expect organized, uncompromising anger as one form of resistance. Also, importantly, international law allows that people under “foreign and colonial domination” have the right to armed resistance. We should expect that the creator of this situation bears a larger burden of responsibility in terms of a creative non-aggressive response. I indicated that automatic support for the Israeli occupation was waning among young people, and I that I personally would work to stretch that binary view.
The longer view I suggest is one of putting this issue within the context of the Global Climate Crisis. This region of the planet is already a desert and research shows is going to get hotter with less and less access to water. None of the historical arguments for rights to the region are going to matter if it’s inhabitable. And does anyone dispute in this future scenario, that poor people of color will be left with the mess while wealthy white people will find a homeland elsewhere?