But what’s pro-Palestinian?

The interminable debate about just how much “tough love” you can show for Israel and still claim to be really truly pro-Israel could perhaps greatly benefit from a comparison with the almost absent debate about what it means to be pro-Palestinian.

One thing seems to be crystal clear: forget about anything even remotely resembling tough love when you want to be regarded as pro-Palestinian.

A good example for this attitude is the prominent Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, who is widely regarded by his western colleagues as a voice of reason and moderation. Kuttab served for some time on the board of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), a small Washington-based group that has deservedly gained impressive influence since its founding in 2003. ATFP defines itself as an American organization that seeks “to provide an independent voice for Palestinian-Americans and their supporters and to promote peace.” The group explicitly rejects violence and “advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.”

However, Kuttab apparently came to believe that ATFP was not sufficiently pro-Palestinian. He resigned from the group and, explaining his reasons on his website, he emphasized:

The task force for Palestine has a duty to Palestine. The paternalistic attitude that Americans including American Palestinians know what is best for Palestinians and their leadership is an arrogant attitude that I can’t agree to be part of.

In another post on the same subject, Kuttab noted disapprovingly that “naturalized Palestinians are becoming more loyal to their new countries” and that this “has now become common in the US as well.”

We can only speculate how Kuttab would feel about these issues if we were not talking about Palestinians, but about Jews and Israel: would he object to the “paternalistic attitude that Americans including American Jews know what is best for Israelis”? And would he think it’s somehow wrong for naturalized Jewish US citizen to be more loyal to the US than to Israel?

We do know, however, that Israel is widely expected to appreciate even the toughest “love” from its critics as a sign of true friendship and goodwill. Clearly, Kuttab doesn’t think that the same should be expected from Palestinians.

Indeed, it seems that except for “tough love”, pretty much anything goes for pro-Palestinian activists and advocates.

Consider the example of Ali Abunimah, a US-born Palestinian American writer who co-founded the Electronic Intifada. The Institute for Middle East Understanding – which “offers journalists and editors quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources” – notes that Abunimah has written a book advocating a “one-state solution” and describes him as “a common voice as an expert commentator and debater offering insight into a range of topics regarding the Middle East. He has appeared on CNN, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN, Democracy Now!, and numerous NPR stations. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Financial Times, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as in the books Live from Palestine, Iraq Under Siege, and The New Intifada. Abunimah is a board member of the Arab American Action Network and a non-resident fellow at the Palestine Center.”

The fact that Abunimah opposes a two-state solution has apparently no consequences for his pro-Palestinian credentials. Abunimah, an ardent supporter of efforts to boycott Israel, is also a sought-after speaker on the topic of Israeli “apartheid” (he has no problem speaking about it even in venues like McGill’s Bronfman building).

In order to understand what Abunimah really means when he accuses Israel of “apartheid”, consider a Twitter exchange from December 24, when Abunimah was challenged by the pro-Israel group “StandWithUs” to “go on record as advocating two states for two people.” Abunimah responded: “Obviously not, I’ve written a book advocating equal rights for all citizens in a single state. I don’t support apartheid.”

In other words, as far as Abunimah is concerned, only Israel’s replacement with a bi-national “one-state-solution” will put an end to Israel’s “apartheid.”

All of this is apparently “pro-Palestinian” – and the same seems to apply to Abunimah’s recent initiative to demonize Israel by promoting a Twitter campaign with the hashtag IsraelHates. Among his most recent contributions on this topic is a tweet from December 24: “#IsraelHates Palestinian Christians so much that Bethlehem is a walled ghetto and Jerusalem a forbidden, walled apartheid hell.”

Can you imagine a similarly high-profile pro-Israel activist rejecting a two-state solution and delighting in demonizing Palestinians not being attacked from all sides for his grotesque view of what’s pro-Israel? And can you imagine such a “pro-Israel” activist being given a platform in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs?

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog

6 responses to “But what’s pro-Palestinian?

  1. Well put, Petra. There seems to be very little attachment among Palestinian moderates to a two-state’ solution. I once heard Sari Nusseibeh say he didn’t car if it was a two-, three- or four-state solution.

    • Thanks, Bataween — as you probably know, many of the people who are considered pro-Palestinian intellectuals are one-staters (even Nusseibeh seems to flirt with this), and nobody really seems to mind (or even notice!) that a group like ATFP has a lot of Western admirers, but only few “pro-Palestinian” supporters.

  2. I think Kuttab makes half a point. It is, I think, a bit arrogant for those not faced with an issue to claim to know best for those actually faced with a situation; however, that one ought not be loyal to the society one has moved into is nuts.

    Advice from those who do not have to live with the consequences of their advice is always problematic. That is not to say that outsiders ought stay entirely silent; only, that they need to understand the obvious, which is that (1) outsiders rarely have as good an understanding of the details as do those facing a situation and (2) it is always easier to have a facile answer to a problem when one does not have to live with the consequences of the advice given.

    I agree entirely with what you write about Mr. Abunimah.

    • But re. Kuttab, he of course would enthusiastically embrace the idea that J-Street knows what’s best for Israel – that’s the point: he’s employing double standards.
      And when it comes to Abunimah, the western media are employing double standards: they wouldn’t get anywhere near his version of a pro-Israeli activist.

  3. Pingback: Pity the Palestinians | The Warped Mirror

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