June 12, 2024

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From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Michel Shehadeh: Criticizing a political movement is not antisemitic

5 min read
Michel Shehadeh: Zionism is a political ideology. Zionism is a political movement. Judaism is a religion. And it's much broader than what they're trying to do. Because by reducing Judaism to be Zionist, they're not really helping the Jews. They're hurting them.

DJ Suss D: To commemorate Nakba Day, Michel Shehadeh spoke at the Eugene Unitarian Universalist Church on May 18.

Shehadeh is the Palestinian American executive director of the Arab Film Festival and the former western regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee.

[00:00:17] Raised in Palestine, he relocated to the United States for college in 1975. He holds a B.A. in journalism and a master’s in public administration from California State University, Long Beach.

[00:00:32] On Jan. 26, 1987, Shehadeh and seven other Los Angeles residents dubbed the ‘Los Angeles 8’ were arrested under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 on the basis of alleged support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine because, according to Shehadeh, they were handing out leaflets.

[00:00:49] After the government refused to disclose exculpatory evidence, the judge in the case dismissed the charges against Shehadeh and another member of the LA8 in 2007, calling the prolonged proceedings ‘an embarrassment to the rule of law.’

[00:01:02] Shehadeh says the current conflict in Israel can be traced back to the Crusades. He uses the Dreyfus affair as an example of how false antisemitism has been used throughout history to justify increased security, resulting in authoritarian regimes.

[00:01:16] The Dreyfus Affair profoundly divided the French, inflamed the press, brought crowds into the streets, and mobilized every political faction from the royalists to the anarchists, ultimately resulting in an arms race that increased artillery purchases in France.

[00:01:32] Without proof, the Nazis blamed the burning of the German parliament building on the communists. Most historians agree this facilitated their rise to power. During the Cold War, the CIA persuaded NATO members to recruit right-wing operatives to engage in terrorist actions and then blame the resulting deaths on left-wing groups, mostly communists. In this way, the United States used deception and terror to prevent groups advocating for social justice from gaining power in Europe after World War II.

[00:02:00] The relative peace in the Middle East during the Ottoman Empire disintegrated when British imperialists divided up the area. Israel was used as a hegemon in the British Empire’s balance of power system to maintain control of the Suez Canal. Now the West maintains Israeli hegemony to secure multinational corporate oil reserves, resulting in billions of dollars in U.S. weapons industry subsidies.

[00:02:23] Michel Shehadeh: And that’s what the British wanted. They wanted a client place, a client state, in that region to protect its own interests. Why then, if you think about it, why then the Sykes-Picot agreement between France and England, which was the agreement to divide the Arab world from being one world, one chunk of country, into 22 countries.

[00:02:52] And in the middle of that, they created Israel, the Zionist entity that needed to be a base, a military base, the vanguard for imperialism, for the British Empire to keep that world divided, so the empire can siphon the fortunes of that land and keep it divided, fighting each other under control.

[00:03:29] And of course, after the United States took control of being the empire, it continued to do the same thing.

[00:03:39] That’s why in 1917, the Balfour Declaration came out by Britain that gave the land of Palestine, a land they did not own, a land that they did not control, because the Mandate of Palestine was given to Britain in 1922, but the Balfour Declaration was in 1917.

[00:04:15] So they were giving this land to the Zionists, as I mentioned, a land that they didn’t own or control, to a movement, to the Zionists who did not live there.

[00:04:38] That was the Balfour Declaration, which stated that the government of His Majesty The King would do everything they can to create a home, a national home for the Jews. I mean, (Theodor) Herzl wrote about this, and he said, ‘Don’t worry about the word home, everybody will understand it’s going to be a state.’

[00:05:02] DJ Suss D: He says the current policies of Israel are being used by white supremacists as justification for antisemitism.

[00:05:11] Michel Shehadeh: ‘Zionism is Judaism.’ This is what the Zionists want you to believe, wants us all to believe: That every Jew is a Zionist and every Zionist is a Jew, a big lie. JVP will tell you, it’s a big lie. Then JVP has been accused of being antisemites. I mean, Palestinians are Semites also.

[00:05:37] But again, the term became, you know, Jew-hating. But the narrative, this narrative has now been uncovered, that Zionism is a political ideology, Zionism is a political movement. Judaism is a religion and it’s much broader than what they’re trying to do. Because by reducing Judaism to be Zionist, they’re not really helping the Jews. They’re hurting them. And when they use the accusation of antisemitism about anybody who wants to speak about Palestinian rights or about what Israel is doing, like I’m doing, if I speak about my history, I’m accused of being antisemitic.

[00:06:32] Again, I don’t undermine how important the issue of antisemitism is, but it should be used against the real enemy of the Jews, the right-wing movement in the United States. Those are the people who are antisemites, and by using it as a pawn in a political game to restrict the rights of the pro-Palestinian voice who have a right to say that, to have not just a right, but they’re speaking about their own issues, they’re undermining this.

[00:07:21] Because now it becomes—it rings hollow if you just keep—everybody speaks about Israel where you accuse them of being antisemites, then antisemitism become ineffective.

[00:07:34] When you really want to use it in the right way, in the right way against Jew-haters, against the haters of the Jews, it loses its effect. You know what the German Nazis, racists, right now are saying in Germany: ‘We told you about those Jews, we told you how they behave,’ and talking about the Zionists.

[00:08:05] So combining this Judaism and Zionism together is hurting the Jews much more than anything else.

[00:08:21] DJ Suss D: Instead of the reactionary policies we’ve been using since the Middle Ages, we need to sift through the propaganda we are all subjected to by corporate media and try diplomacy.

[00:08:32] For KEPW News, I’m DJ Suss D.

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