From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

As I mentioned below, the pro-Israel demonstrations and activities, regardless of where they occurred or who participated in them, were the more compelling and interesting stories for a variety of reasons. One reason, of course, is that for the pro-Israel people all this is more than just a game or a passionate hobby or an enjoyable, self-fulfilling exercise in ideological convictions, as it almost certainly is for the bands of young college girls I saw at the Ohio Union, happily sporting kaffiyeh-chic for the weekend. For the latter especially, this is just a college activity, something that has little immediate consequence in their lives and which they’ll look back on fondly in a few years, albeit perhaps a bit bemusedly, when they have 2.5 kids and the like, the Che poster is buried in a box in the basement, the highlighting has faded from the Marx, and they still think the West Bank is something similar in size to Ohio and that Israel is a country perhaps the size of Norway or Vietnam, if not a lot larger (and, yes, I’ve met more than a few collegiate pro-Palestinian activists and the like who think this is true). And there are likely plenty of well intentioned albeit perhaps naïve and ideologically clumsy young people like this in the movement, but they’ll grow out of it or detached from it when the luster and novelty of being a radical, or imitating their favorite teaching associate or professor or career revolutionary, or defining their views in essentially contrarian terms of what they don’t believe (for example, whatever Mom and Dad believe) wears off. (Indeed, this is another reason festivities like the conference are important to the solidarity movement: it helps them recruit, restock, and stockpile their ranks of young functionaries). As one of my friends says, there’s a thin line between radicalism and juvenile delinquency, but folks tend to eventually grow out of both.

For the pro-Israel protesters, all this is something more, because it is connected to larger political spheres and to who they are, who they’ve been, and who they’ll always be. This isn’t something most of them encountered in their first semester at college, to say the least. Granted, there is a contingent of similarly committed folks in the anti-Israel camp, but their campaign against Israel and against Zionism (and, for some, against Jews and Yahoodis in general), regardless of its thrust, is merely one more retrograde campaign among others of the type. For the pro-Israel folks, the central issues and necessities of being pro-Israel operate within the same spheres of immediacy, regardless of whether such folks are countering anti-Israel efforts or the effects of Palestinian propaganda, Arab propaganda, European propaganda, academic propaganda, or any of the other variegated campaigns by which the solidarity movement and its ilk endeavor to stigmatize, delegitimize, assault, or assail Israel, Israelis, and anyone who supports Israel. And for the true supporters of Israel, this isn’t about political or intellectual or religious narcissism, and it’s far deeper than the self-indulgent posturings of subscribing to so-called anti-Zionism (but not anti-Semitism, man!) or fighting for the revolution or sticking it to the man: it’s about standing up in the face of the lies and distortions and malevolence directed at Israel because doing so is the right and necessary thing to do.

Also, as we saw last weekend, efforts like the pro-Israel demonstrations will always be more compelling than efforts of campaigns like the PSM conference and similar agendas, in good measure because the essential and primary tools of the former are facts and truth. The conference campaign and its ilk, on the other hand, rely on half-baked propaganda and decrepit misrepresentations about “Apartheid” and the like. And objecting to such base and malevolent propaganda is not just a matter of being pro-Israel but also of being pro-truth. You may win a few friends and influence a few people with your tendentious anti-Israel quasi-rhetoric, but just as many people, and probably far more, will see through it. Indeed, no matter how loud you chant about “Israeli Apartheid,” you’ll always lose your own argument to the simple fact that, well, it’s not Apartheid, and such self-indulgent, witless claims that endeavor to link Israel to Apartheid merely make a perverse mockery of what Apartheid truly was. You can bewail the so-called Palestinian Right of Return as supposedly dictated in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, but the resolution still won’t say anything of the sort, much less what you so desperately want it to. You can rant and rave all you like about how UN Security Resolution 242 supposedly mandates that Israel turn over the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians, but it won’t change the simple and obvious fact that it doesn’t. You can make up all the bogus Desmond Tutu and Edward Said quotes you like, but they won’t make you and your agenda any less wrong or any less craven and transparently opportunistic. And you can adopt as many sanctimonious, pusillanimous guiding “principles” as you please by which to exempt yourselves from decrying barbaric acts of terrorism, especially the self-detonating Palestinian variety, but it won’t lessen the depths of your hypocrisy or the stench of your ideological by-products.

And you can pontificate to your hearts’ contents about how “If it wasn’t for Israel and America violating every international mechanism to resolve this, we wouldn’t have to do this divestment: We have no choice! When people say, ‘How dare I wage a divestment campaign against Israel,' I say, ‘How dare you and Israel force us to wage this campaign!’ We have no choice but to divest from Israel, so we better do a damn good job!” (Yes, folks, that’s an actual quote from the conference’s opening session: You can’t make this stuff up.) We all know that the more general purpose of your divestment campaign is not to persuade universities to divest from Israel (as if any reputable academic institution would adopt such an asinine and hypocritical measure!) but to garner publicity for yourselves and your movement, and to miseducate as many people, especially well intentioned young people, as possible. You will not succeed, and not just because you own efforts refute you and inspire people to oppose your movement and support Israel, but because so much of your program is based on lies and falsity.

Indeed, as Joseph Conrad wrote, “You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appals (sic) me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world -- what I want to forget. It makes me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do.”

Something rotten, indeed. And so: Fake quotes; false interpretations; out-and-out misrepresentations and distortions; perversions of language; double standards; and so on. Rotten and appalling tactics such as these by which folks endeavor to stigmatize and malign Israel are neither honest nor compelling, and it’s no way to do business, intellectually or otherwise. This is one reason why the OSU Committee for Justice in Palestine’s open petition asking the university to divest from Israel has garnered 439 signatures over the last two years, but a petition against their conference, signed only by Ohio residents, garnered over 10,000 signatures in just a matter of weeks. It’s also a reason why so few people, including the media, wasted no more seconds or ink than necessary, if even that, with the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference.

I’ll post further observations about the OSU CJP, the PSM, and their recent conference tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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