Last week in Canada journalist Max Blumenthal and Carleton University political science professor Mira Sucharov participated in a lengthy debate about whether it’s possible for Israel to be both Jewish and democratic. I highly recommend watching the debate in its entirety given how extremely rare it is for Zionists to publicly debate this issue, especially when it means taking on a person as knowledgable and articulate as Max. It’s also very likely the last time you will see a liberal Zionist debate an anti-Zionist in public, so enjoy it. (You can watch it here)
I could probably fill a book with Max’s most memorable remarks, but there’s one in particular that stood out for me.
At around the 87:25 mark Max addresses why he devotes so much time to reporting on settler colonialism in Palestine when settler colonialism has been taking place in his own country, the United States, for a lot longer and on a much larger scale. I’ve often wrestled with this same question, which is usually posed by people who genuinely feel that what’s happening in Palestine shouldn’t overshadow what’s happening in our own backyard. And they are right. But other times, this question is sandwiched in between accusations that Palestine solidarity is intentionally derailing conversations about settler colonialism in this country. In any case, Max does a wonderful job addressing this and I couldn’t agree more with his response:
When people ask me, “Why are you as an American covering this situation and focusing on it 5,000 miles away? Isn’t the United States a settler colonialist state and what are you doing about that?” That’s a legitimate question, it’s a legitimate challenge. Of course I have written about abuses of indigenous rights and immigrant rights in this country but I feel like I’m not doing enough.
One of the issues though is that the process of settler colonialism that brought the United States and Canada into being is largely a completed project which has left the First Nations, the Aboriginal people, the Native Americans, on reservations—the kind which Palestinian population centers increasingly resemble. And the Native people have been turned into a mascot for North America’s fun and games. They’ve had attack helicopters named after them and sold to the Israeli military. They’ve had precision guided missiles named after their weapons. It’s a reflection of the fact that they have been disappeared from the lives and the view of the white man.
The Jewish population of Israel—although they’ve probably never been able to ignore Palestinians more, especially in Tel Aviv thanks to the separation wall and the whole policy of Hafrada or separation—still considers the Palestinians to be a major threat to their existence. Palestinian resistance is ongoing and the process of settler colonialism is ongoing. And so Beitar Jerusalem, the main soccer team in Jerusalem, you don’t see them with Palestinian or Arab logos on their shirts. Instead you hear the cry of “death to Arabs” from their fanatics after every goal. You feel the sense of eliminationism in Israeli society because the process of 1948 is unfinished and as I’ve said again and again, the goal of the rightwing rulers of Israel is to ‘finish ‘48’ and that’s why they’re popular.
They want to finish that project that began in 1948 and I as a journalist feel like it’s my obligation to document what’s happening and to get in the way. If I were a journalist in the 1880s, I would hope that I would have been in the American West documenting these final massacres of the Lakota Sioux.
It’s no coincidence that we see so much solidarity growing between Palestine solidarity activists and Native American and Aboriginal activists in Canada and the United States. It’s because they both recognize a common process that they’ve been victimized by.