Jewish is Fine, Zionist is Not
Not many Palestinians were familiar with the name Uri Davis until yesterday when the media reported that the "Jewish member of Fateh" had been nominated for a spot on the movement's Revolutionary Council. Davis, recruited into Fateh in the 1980's by assassinated Fateh leader Khalil Al Wazir, was born in Jerusalem in the early forties to Jewish immigrants who believed in the Zionist dream.
Obviously, Davis did not adopt his parents' ideologies, calling himself a "Palestinian Jew." An academic, Davis has been an avid proponent of human rights, Palestinian especially, and an opponent of the nature of Israel as a Jewish state. In 1987, he wrote a book entitled, "Israel: an apartheid state" and penned his autobiography in 1995 entitled, "An autobiography of an anti-Zionist Palestinian Jew."
Needless to say, Uri Davis is not your average run-of-the-mill Israeli. Now he has been nominated for one of Fateh's highest decision-making councils. The Revolutionary Council, which comprises of 80 seats, is the second most important body in Fatah after the 18-member Central Committee. So far, 700 or so candidates have been nominated for seats on the Council, with election results expected in the next few days.
Whether or not Davis wins a seat on the Council or not is largely beside the point. He is already a longstanding member of Fateh and even an observer member of the Palestine National Council. In short, he has made his point and has left no question of where his loyalties lie.
His position also makes a very strong statement about the Palestinians, one which needs to be brought to light more often. Palestinians have never been opposed to "Jews" per se. As a monotheistic religion, Palestinians respect Judaism and its followers as much as they revere Christians or Muslims. It is not Judaism that Palestinians are fighting, it is Zionism. Why else would Fateh, the Palestinians' oldest and most longstanding revolutionary movement, accept a Jew (with Israeli citizenship) as a member? Why else would Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh welcome members of the Neturei Karta - ultra-orthodox anti-Zionist Jews - in besieged Gaza? The answered is simple. The Palestinians' existential struggle is with a political movement grounded in racist ideology that allows the superiority of one people over another on the sole premise of their race. Zionism just happens to exploit Judaism, linking the two, making them inextricably inseparable.
However, people like Uri Davis, Jewish American academician Normal Finkelstein and many others, prove this theory wrong and are willing to go up against a tidal wave of criticism to make their voices heard. They are called "self-hating Jews", despised by the majority of Israelis who think supporting the Palestinians' right to liberation from occupation is tantamount to high treason – apparently both to the state and to their identity as Jews.
If the matter is taken from this perspective, it is clear that Zionist Jews are principally to blame for creating such a tight link between Judaism and Zionism. It was not the Palestinians or the Arabs or anyone else who established this relationship. Hence, Israel should not lash out at anyone who has even the slightest criticism for Israel by branding them "anti-Semites" or in the case of Uri Davis or even White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, as "self-hating Jews."
For years, Israel has played the religion card to create splits among the people of the region and not only with the Jews. Back in the early nineties, when the first Intifada was in its prime, Israel tried to bait Palestinian Muslims and Christians by claiming that Muslims (around 95% of Palestine's population) were persecuting the small Christian minority. The accusations didn't stick since they were baseless. Christian and Muslim Palestinians have always maintained a healthy relationship overall and have not allowed Israel to drive a wedge between them.
Having said this, Palestinians will not deny they are opposed to Zionism, to which most of their current problems can be traced back. Dispossession, occupation, discrimination and oppression of the Palestinians have all been directly caused by the Zionist dream, which is only viable as long as the aspirations of the other are denied.
This is what people like Uri Davis believes and why he chose not to follow in the footsteps of his parents. He obviously realized the injustices done to the Palestinians in his name and so wrongly in the name of Judaism. That is, he has refused to allow Israel to speak for him.
In this sense, Fateh must be commended for breaking a social and psychological barrier and making a very important point. Anyone, regardless of religion, race or creed, who supports the Palestinians' legitimate right to liberation and freedom from oppression, is welcomed with open arms. This is not to say there are not exceptions to the rule. That is, there are those Palestinians who do not separate religion from political movement and consider "Jew" and "Zionist" as synonymous. But they are a minority and will hopefully follow the example of other open-minded Palestinians who have the courage to separate the two even as Israel does not.
The example of Fateh member Uri Davis is a perfect one. It brings to light one fundamental point that encapsulates the tangled relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. Jewish is all right. Zionist is not.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Program at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.