From Civil Arab
What defines normalization with Zionist groups and individuals? Debates and misunderstandings abound about the subject and what Palestinians demand.
Now, I don't speak for all Palestinians, of course. Nevertheless, I'll try to break it down as best as I understand it.
But let me start by recounting the story of a famous Supreme Court episode. In 1964, the Court was confronted with the question of whether a Ohio theatre owner had violated an obscenity statue by showcasing a "pornographic" film. The theatre owner was declaring that his right to display these materials was protected under the free speech provision of the First Amendment. In order to assess this argument, the justices were faced with attempting to precisely define what "pornography" is. If you are considering the constitutionality of a form of expression, you have to at least define what that expression is, right?
We are talking about a Supreme Court populated by nine middle-aged and old white guys. In 1964. In a famous concurring opinion, Justice Potter Stewart, in attempting to define the parameters of "hard-core pornography," wrote the following:
"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."
Now, back to the question of normalization as it relates to Palestine.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, on the BDS website, defines normalization as "relationships that convey a misleading or deceptive image of normalcy, of symmetry, of parity, for a patently abnormal and asymmetric relationship of colonial oppression and apartheid."
At the very least, in an American context, two specific types of activities are understood to reach the level of harmful normalization with Zionism. The first is bilateral relationships with Zionist, anti-Palestinian organizations, or with the Israeli state itself. The second is engagement in Muslim-Jewish "interfaith" activities with Zionist, anti-Palestinian groups.
Such interactions are exponentially more damaging when Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim American individuals or organizations are the partners of such Zionist entities.
Here's some examples of the bilateral relationships. When the governments, not the people, of the UAE, Bahrain, and other nations sign normalizations agreements with Israel. When Wael Alzayat, the CEO of Emgage, a Muslim American civic engagement organization, proudly partners with the Anti-Defamation League in a signed letter to the State Department. When the national co-chair of Emgage, AJ Durrani, proudly accepts an ADL award. Imagine a Black civil rights group joyfully dancing with the authors of Jim Crow. It's that.
And here's some examples of the "faithwashing" stuff. When the governments, not the people, UAE, Bahrain, and other nations sign normalizations agreements with Israel, under the religious moniker of the "Abraham Accords." When prominent Muslim Americans, like the aforementioned Emgage CEO, as well as well-known comedian and media personality Dean Obeidallah, sit on the national council of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. MJAC's founders are the AJC and the Islamic Society of North America. Imagine a Jewish advocacy group shaking hands with the Charlottesville marchers. It's that.
The damage these types of relationships afflict upon the Palestinian cause is not hypothetical. After the August 2020 announcement that the UAE and Israel were normalizing relations, Israel immediately commenced a 10-day-long bombing campaign of Gaza. And no one talked about it.
Quickly, why are the ADL and AJC so toxic?
The ADL boasts that it "has always been a strong voice for Israel," denouncing BDS as anti-Semitic and justifying Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL CEO, gushed about attending Trump's opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem in 2018. "Today is a day of celebration. The opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem is a historic milestone 2,000 years in the making," he announced. Israel massacred over 60 Palestinians on that "day of celebration." Dozens of progressive groups, representing Palestinians, Jews, and African Americans, have urged all peoples to sever ties with the ADL.
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