America, Palestine and Israel: is there hope?

This is nothing to do with Irish politics, but I thought it was interesting anyway.

I'm in America at the moment, and I spent a couple days this week in NYC. I lived there for a year and a half in the early 90s, and in upstate New York for a couple years after that, so my reflections in the following paragraph are based entirely upon experience.

As most people will be aware, there is a huge Jewish population in New York - such that Rosh Hashanah is a state holiday. This population is, by and large, fiercely Zionist, and its political influence is strong enough to have effectively cut off any debate on the subject - at least that was the case when I was living there. Outside of the (extremely marginalised) far left, and the unfortunately slightly less marginalised Nation of Islam, there was simply nobody arguing the Palestinian cause; to do so was to be labelled an 'anti-Semite' and, most likely, a sympathiser of those towelheads that had bombed the World Trade Centre shortly after my move to the city (merely a coincidence, I assure you).

So I was pleasantly stunned at a couple things I saw there this week. Things like Palestinian scarves on display for sale by the city's ubiquitous street vendors, and young, distinctively non-Arab people wearing them; and at every bookstore I visited, former President Jimmy Carter's extraordinary new book about the conflict, Peace not Apartheid (extraordinary in the fact that it exists, I mean; I haven't read it yet), was in the 'best sellers' section. These may seem fairly minor, and maybe they are, but they would have been absolutely unheard of a decade or so ago. Let's hope they're an indication of a loosening of the stranglehold the Israel lobby has had on American politics for decades - because as long as it persists, there can never be hope for peace in the Middle East and, increasingly, the world.


Mbari Hogun said...

The kafiyeh has become something of a hipster fashion accessory. Unless the person wearing it has a beard I wouldn't mistake it as a political statement.

Wednesday said...

Well, it's something of a hipster fashion accessory in Ireland too, but that doesn't make it any less a political statement.

A decade ago it wouldn't even be thinkable as a fashion accessory in New York.

WorldbyStorm said...

Or PLO scarves as we called them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Still, any bit of political education is political education.

I think though, you're correct Wednesday, in so far as the Iraq conflict has certainly begun to generate at least some critique of current US policy as regards the Israel/Palestine issue and particularly following on from the ISG report.

I also lived in NY on a student visa for half of 1989 and it was remarkable how the left actually consisted in large part of the old black/Jewish alliance that had been forged during the 1960s in the civil rights cauldron, I'm thinking in particular of the CPUSA, who by the by used to have a brilliant bookshop on 23rd Street close to the Chelsea HOtel (was still there four years ago IIRC). They, being pro-Soviet at the time, had a slightly more advanced take on the conflict.

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