“Christopher Columbus Was the First Zionist”

Someone leaked a batch of emails that have been exchanged by leaders of the Occupy Wall Street group. I’ve only dipped into them briefly, but some are pretty entertaining. This thread reminded me of my days as a leftist, and the difficulty of accommodating the diverse and sometimes inconsistent varieties of left-wing crackpotism. It started with a representative of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition named Andy Pollack (!), who was dismayed that someone from Israel’s “tent protests” was an OWS speaker. He went on at great length, so I will excerpt:

Tonight (Tuesday) was the first Occupy Wall Street outreach training. I was shocked to hear that the first speaker after the introduction would be an activist from the Israeli “tent protests,” the racist movement which was fighting for cheaper rents and mortgages for stolen homes on stolen land.

OWS has responded to criticisms of inadequate leadership and participation and addressing of issues by and regarding people of color by fostering discussion and restructuring. The racist “tent protest” movement responded to equivalent challenges from Palestinians by telling them, “shut up, leave us alone, don’t divide the movement.” …

When he finished I got the floor … and made some of the above points. Almost as soon as I began speaking murmurs of disagreement and calls of “this isn’t the time” and downward “twinkling” hand motions began. One of the facilitators asked the speaker to respond, and he said “it’s a question of outreach. I did outreach to Palestinians in Israel who were leery of joining the movement. You’ll have to do the same in the Bronx. The issue of Palestinians in the movement won’t be settled here.”

Well, yes, Mr. Zionist, it will be settled here. There is a huge Palestinian exile community in the US, with that in NY being one of the biggest components. They want their land back, they want their homes back, and they want the right to return. They have no interest in a movement which haggles over the rent paid by Jews to Jews for stolen property.

I have been having a hell of a great time building OWS, especially its labor component, and encouraging Palestinians and other Arabs to join in. That will cease until there is some clarification of exactly where OWS stands on these issues.

Another activist then weighed in to express agreement:

[Y]es, the J-14 protests might have been similar to ours in form and style and subject, but the real housing crisis in Israel happened half a century ago with the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and continues today with settlement expansion and an institutionalized policy of racism and apartheid. … To speak of the J14 protests without at least acknowledging this reality goes against what I understand is one of the main central productive abilities of OWS that gives it such credibility: a drive to unmask the forms of oppression the national and global system currently creates. Further, it is our responsibility to face these facts: the disproportionately large U.S. financial and political support of Israel makes this issue urgently relevant to our protests.

Others weighed in, noting that 200 representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine were due to attend the OWS protest soon. Then someone named Gail Zawacki, whose interests are evidently environmental, took a turn:

Any acknowledgment of US military oppression and the “war on terror” as well as the stranglehold that corporations have on politics and the economy should include the primary motivation, the largest – by far most profitable – industry in the world, which is the extraction of fossil fuels. Dependence on oil (enforced by multi-national corporate interests) is the most perniciously destructive aspect of modern society. We’ve already taken all the easily available oil and now have turned to more exotic, desperate and dangerous methods of obtaining non-renewable, dirty energy, including deep water drilling (Gulf oil spill?), nuclear (Fukushima anyone?), and destroying entire regional ecosystems through mountaintop removal for coal, “natural” gas fracking, and tar sands.

The 99% are going to have no economy to recover if we continue to poison the planet. The entire Mideast is going to become literally uninhabitable as the climate heats up, and all this squabbling over the scraps will have been a waste of time. Focus on the real enemy. Exxon, BP, the Koch brothers, Massey Energy…the list is long.

Someone named Martin Kaminer joined the conversation with a relatively lucid comment:

I’m not clear on the connection between unquenchable thirst for oil and unshakable support for Israel — those would seem to work at cross-purposes, no?

To which Ms. Zawacki replied:

I don’t see the cross-purposes. US needs a secure base in the middle of oil country. My larger point, however, is that it is wholly insufficient to attack the economic system without understanding that, whatever the economic system, unsustainable growth based on burning fuel is doomed to catastrophe.

Finally, one Shaista Husain reconciles the contradictions with this synthesis:

Christopher Columbus was the first ZIONIST ===don’t you guys get it? The same colonial narrative–genocide. We must endorse the Declaration of First Nation Peoples, in solidarity, for the plight of all people of color. Cesar and Bahareh, i agree–this is most urgent.

This exchange strikes me as revealing on several levels, but I will close with just two observations: 1) It is a reminder of the sheer volume of ignorant BS that leftists can generate. 2) The only common denominator that binds together these miscellaneous cranks with their various obsessions is their visceral hatred of the United States.

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