Open Letter To German Left On BDS, From Palestinian And Israeli Activists – OpEd
By Max Ajl
A little over a month ago, the Die Linke – the Left – delegates in the German Bundestag adopted a resolution stating that they would not take part in any Middle East peace initiatives calling for a “one-state solution” nor in “calls to boycott Israeli products.” Their statement also disavowed German participation in the Freedom flotilla, and concluded with the injunction that “We expect our personal staff and the staff of the parliamentary group to support these positions, as well.” The preambular statement justified Die Linke’s opposition to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions with respect to the history of German antisemitism, thereby linking meaningful opposition to Israeli denial of Palestinian rights with the German Judeocide.
One should recognize the objective sensitivity of the political situation in Germany, where the accusation of antisemitism retains its charge, and where without anti-Zionist Jews it’s likely that there would be no organized opposition to Israeli crimes. But one should do so without making the slightest excuse for a resolution ordering the left to reject support for boycott activities. Such a resolution is inexcusable, the result of the warping and manipulation of historical memory and political judgment. In some measure this resolution is the fruit of the efforts of a sector of German faux-leftists calling themselves “Anti-Deutsch” – they astoundingly claim that support for Israeli crimes is a “leftist” position.
Yet, putting the lie to Anti-Deutsch’s indefensible claims, much of the rest of the German left has seethed in response, and reacted furiously: as Victor Grossman comments, “many were especially angry at the last restrictive sentence which was viewed as a gag rule – the first one in the young party.” BDS’s ingenuity in part lies in its plasticity: it can be accommodated easily to local obstacles, and can also educate and contribute to movement building, while putting both real and symbolic pressure on the Israeli matrix of control. Acquiescing to rejection of BDS is tantamount to accepting the status quo. It’s shameful and simply stains the global left. As Israel criminalizes BDS, the need for global civil society to tangibly oppose Israeli actions becomes ever-more-incumbent. As Michael Warschawsky adds, “It is appropriate that the Die Linke leadership withdraw its statement, which lacks both political wisdom and moral integrity.” Warschawsky was also one of the signatories to an open letter to Die Linke from Palestinian and Israeli activists. It is reproduced in full below.
Dear parliament members of Die Linke,
We, Jewish and Palestinian left-wing activists from Israel, strongly oppose the recent statement made by your party with regard to anti-Semitism. This statement deals with two very different domains as if they were one, between which it is vital to make a distinction in order to be able to fight anti-Semitism in Germany and worldwide. Moreover, the statement in question implies an outrageous accusation against civil society in Israel, Palestine, and the international solidarity movements from around the world, which support a just peace in our region.
We are aware that anti-Semitism, just like Islamophobia and other forms of racism, sexism, and homophobia, also exist within the European left. As members of the leading left party in Germany, it is vital that you take a firm stance on this issue and we support you in that respect in your unequivocal condemnation of racist anti-Jewish activities, ideologies, and discourses.
We do not necessarily share the same view on the issues and forms of struggle regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including those mentioned in your statement: a one-state versus two-state settlement; the campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS); and the various international solidarity activities, including the flotillas breaking the siege of Gaza. Nevertheless, we are unanimous in our conviction that none of these stances or acts have anything to do with anti-Semitism in and of themselves. To imply, as your statement does, that simply discussing these topics is anti-Semitic is an affront against a global anti-racist movement of which we are proud members — a movement which is fighting the illegal and brutal policies of the State of Israel against the Palestinians within its internationally recognized borders, those in the occupied Palestinian territory, and those in the diaspora.
We believe that solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for independence and justice is not only a moral imperative, but also in the best interest of Israeli citizens and Jews worldwide. The Israeli establishment tries to present itself as the legitimate representative of the entire Jewish people, a proclamation that is all too often accepted without any criticism in Germany and throughout Europe. In recent years, the Israeli government is increasingly utilizing the false equivalence between anti-Semitism and criticism of its policies in an attempt to quash debate over the Palestinian issue.
We insist that Die Linke continues to express its clear opposition to anti-Semitism, its solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and its commitment to continuing an open discussion about the different forms of struggle, activism, and solidarity, as well as the possible resolutions to the conflict. Far from being conflicting, these objectives in fact complement each other into what we believe would be the most effective progressive position on the issues.
We will continue to express our opposition to all forms of racism and oppression and hope that you will reconsider your decision on this issue so that we may struggle alongside one another for a just peace in the Middle East.
Click here to see the signatories to this statement.