Howie Machtinger’s 1/16/2022
JVP-Triangle Member Meeting Presentation
I am not going to provide a lot of answers today, but I think I will pose some of the right questions for us to consider as JVP and as individuals. Let’s think about the current political context for our work and how we might effectively respond.
- The rise of global and domestic fascist/anti-democratic, authoritarian—whatever you want to call it–movements. In October, 1917, “white nationalist leader Richard Spencer gave Israel as an example of an ‘ethno-state’ he aspires to create in the United States.”
In a July, 2018 tweet, he elaborated, “I have great admiration for Israel’s nation-state law. Jews are, once again, at the vanguard, rethinking politics and sovereignty for the future, showing a path forward for Europeans,” Spencer is playing the role of the quintessential anti-Semitic Zionist. Israel has cultivated relations with right-wing leaders like Modi in India, Orban in Hungary, Duterte in the Philippines, and Bolsonaro in Brazil as part of a global network of right-wing regimes. Fascists require a “dangerous” other –for Netanyahu and Bennett, that other is the Palestinians. Bennett proudly proclaims himself as to the right of Netanyahu and doesn’t even pay lip service to the so-called two-state solution. Bennet, lacking Netanyahu’s flamboyance and obvious corruption— with the US’s connivance—have managed to keep Israel and Palestine largely absent from the media and political conversation, except for some initial praise for Israel’s Covid response, of course, without reference to Palestinians. Even the outrageous classification of six eminent and world respected Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations as terrorist groups or the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah have received little international response. How can we act to turn this around—clarify Israel’s actual role in the world—not as a Middle East democracy, but as a focal point of the world right-wing surge?
- Charlottesville and the October, 2018 murders in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh made publicly evident the role of anti-Semitism in the US’s right-wing movement. Jews are considered as key to “Replacement” theory. We are seen as the insidious, manipulative force behind immigration as well as Black protest. And of course, Christian nationalism’s key tenet is that the US is a white Christian nation to be purged of interlopers. We have not been the central targets of the right, but still we are not considered legitimate Americans.
I should note: As last week (January, 2022) made obvious, not all anti-Semitism, of course, emanates from the organized Right. Anti-Semitism has traction amongst various tendencies and groupings, even among some anti-Zionist fellow travelers. Too much of Zionist practice has functioned as a fertile field for anti-Semitic currents.
We are also faced with a double whammy; simultaneously the target of right-wing anti-Semitism, and accused of anti-Semitism by some of the same forces because of our anti-Zionism. Our event on anti-Semitism in 2019 was a good effort to undermine these two-faced accusations. How might we follow up?
January 6 has not slowed down this right-wing movement, but rather sped it up. The response of establishment politics has so far been weak and not very effective. We are obviously in a dangerous moment.
- We are further confronted with important elections in 2022 and 2024 with the Republican Party taken over by the hard right and the polls trending in their direction. The Biden Administration serves as a handmaiden to Israel policy–except with respect to Iran. While public opinion has moved positively on Palestine, the Palestinian solidarity movement has not succeeded in turning this change in public opinion into substantive change in political policy. How can we do better?
- Besides all this, there is growing militarism, with hot spots with respect to Iran—with Israel firmly opposed to any nuclear deal–Russia/Ukraine, and most of all China. The defense budget is up. There is also the ongoing climate crisis lacking effective political leadership in response. The same right-wingers are big supporters of a military buildup (along with many Democrats) and climate deniers.
This is obviously all quite bracing, overwhelming. Unfortunately, it is also real. The questions for us: are: how does our work connect to any or all of this? What work and organization is required? Who might be our allies? What new formations or coalitions would be helpful? What other work might we/should we connect to? I am not making an argument to pull back on Palestinian solidarity work, but rather thinking about how to connect our work to other necessary progressive movements and to the anti-fascist movement as a whole. Palestinian solidarity work needs to be a part of a larger movement.
If any of this resonates, what might this mean in practice?