Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Correcting Mark Segal's Confusion: A Letter to the Philadelphia Gay News





A major confusion appears in Mark Segal's piece "LGBT history, LGBT hypocrisy," where he says, "Some members of our community want to support Hamas and boycott Israel."

I don't know anyone, LGBT or otherwise, who supports Hamas. On the other hand, I know many people who support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This has nothing to do with support for political Islam, and everything to do with opposition to a whole panoply of policies -- occupation of the West Bank, economic blockade of Gaza, and discriminatory official practices within "Israel proper" -- that all derive from Israel's character as a colonial-settler state founded on the ideology of ethno-religious nationalism known as Zionism (or "political Judaism" if you will).

A bit of history Segal seems to forget is that Israeli leaders, back in the day, rather openly sought to foster Hamas as a "counterforce" to the socially moderate, secular PLO. So it is to a significant degree a monster of Israel's own making.

In much the same way that Al-Qaeda's atrocity on 9/11 brought out some of the most regressive attitudes among Americans, such as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, so the daily brutalization of Palestinians living under occupation, where the only Israelis they get to meet are military oppressors, inevitably fosters anti-Semitism and helps to make a group like Hamas more attractive to them.

While volunteering in 2002 with the International Solidarity Movement (palsolidarity.org), one of our hosts, a schoolteacher in Middle Gaza, told me he had asked his students, "How do you feel about Jews? Do you love them or hate them?" They answered, "We hate them!" Then he said, "Now, what if I told you that some Jewish people support us? Now how would you feel about them?" Answer: "We would love them!"

The more Palestinians see Americans -- especially us of Jewish descent -- supporting their human rights by boycotting Israel and by pushing Uncle Sam to take his hand off the scale and stop subsidizing the Israeli war machine, the less attractive a group like Hamas will be to them. At the same time it would remove both the material and psychological support that enable Israel to persist in its current colonialist actions and world-view.

The United States repudiated our racist origins a century and a half ago when we adopted the Fourteenth Amendment. It is time for Israel, with the help of some limit-setting from us, to do likewise.

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