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Policing Language While the Bombs Fall
Most of the latest anti-DSA rhetoric is overwrought. Examples include this bit from Maurice Isserman and this one from Harold Myerson. To be clear, I think the world of both. I have had a few interactions with Harold over the years, hardly any with Isserman.
I have been close to quitting DSA myself. As far as basic DSA organizing goes, I don’t partake, so there is not much keeping me in. I elaborated on that in my previous post. My limited political energies are currently devoted to preventing a Republican sweep in this year’s local elections in Virginia, a threat to which my DSA chapter seems blissfully indifferent. My lack of connection to DSA’s basic work, as I suspect for those named above, means it takes little to give me an excuse to resign. As they were, I think, I’m balanced on the fence as it is.
The anger in responses to DSA’s fumbling in reaction to the Hamas massacre in Israel is perfectly understandable, but it does give rise to overreaction as well. It also provides openings for opportunists in the Democratic Party establishment and for those further on the Right.
On the one hand we have seen some rah-rah cheerleading for Hamas, which is gross and unbefitting any sort of left formation. Making light of the slaughter of any innocent civilians bespeaks moral cretinism and unserious politics.
On the other hand, much of the criticism of DSA seems premised on the argument that “you didn’t make clear in paragraph two that Hamas is unspeakable. You left it until paragraph five.” As noted above, there has been political ineptitude, but that is not the same thing as unconscionable sympathy for Hamas.
In the cold light of day, the rhetorical distaste hardly squares with the wages of the ongoing Israeli revenge assault on Gaza, which will be remembered for hundreds of years. That will not be good for the Jews.
In response to the U.S. invasions of Iraq, the massive coalition named “A.N.S.W.E.R.” staged huge rallies in Washington. I attended them but never paid attention to the speakers, nor to the politics of the sketchy, sectarian organization that put the coalition together. It was inconsequential in light of the object of demonstrations.
Now too, I would say “ceasefire now” is the most urgent political demand. It doesn’t much matter who else is supporting it.
Hamas is still firing rockets into Israel. I doubt it would observe any ceasefire. What should Israel do in response? I have no military expertise, but I’m sure on a moral level that demolishing multiple city blocks in response to a rocket should be unacceptable. Every such Israeli attack is justified ex post as a surgical strike on a Hamas target. Rubbish. There is no surgery in Israeli bombardment.
So ceasefire means at least dialing back the massive destruction committed by the Israeli Defense Force. Call it genocide, ethnic cleansing, or whatever you like. It’s just so clearly wrong, on a practical as well as a moral level. Agitation for ceasefire exerts pressure on the Biden Administration to try to limit that destruction. It also takes some air out of demands for a wider war encompassing Hezbollah and Iran.
Those concerns for me take precedence over a few unpleasant, even anti-Semitic overtones here and there in recent left protests against the state of Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, on both the West Bank and Gaza. The different connotations of a Jewish star and the Israeli flag are lost on a lot of people, not incidentally due in great part to Israeli propaganda.
In college I had a buddy from Palestine. There weren’t many around then. He told me, “We are Semites too.”