Ikhras is pleased to announce the winner of the Muntadhar Zaidi Shoe of the Month Award for March, 2012 is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. The well-known public activist, former candidate for the presidency of the collaborationist Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Palestine National Initiative earned the prestigious ikhras shoe award by traveling from occupied Ramallah to Washington, DC to attend J Street’s 2012 annual gala.
Since its establishment in 2008 this racist, Zionist organization dedicated to the destruction of Palestine has sought to present itself as the pro-peace faction of the pro-Israel lobby hoping to distinguish itself from its only slightly more obnoxious colleagues at AIPAC. To advance the pernicious notion that the two are not mutually exclusive, J Street describes itself as both “Pro-Israel and pro-Peace.” To the uninitiated political simpletons J Street may come across as a more humane version of Zionism, but upon closer examination of its substantive policy positions it is virtually indistinguishable from other elements of the pro-Israel lobby.
J Street makes clear its goal is to defend Israel, preserve the racist, colonial project in Palestine, and lobby the US government to maintain unlimited military, economic, and political support for an exclusivist Jewish state. It advocates for maintaining Israel’s technological and military superiority over all states in the region and calls on others to recognize the “right” of members of the Jewish faith from all over the world to colonize Palestine while opposing the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, land, and property. To that end it has adopted a deceptively moderate tone and paid lip service to the “two-state solution” canard. J Street is not driven by any moral considerations, a search for a just peace, liberalism, or universal human values. Instead, it remains dedicated to the same racist, colonial enterprise all other pro-Israel groups are committed to. As far as J Street is concerned support for a non-contiguous, demilitarized, and defenseless mini-state-in-name-only in occupied Palestine 67 is the best policy to ensure the long-term survival of the Zionist project. It differs from AIPAC in that it believes Israel can survive in the 78% of Palestine occupied in 1948 only if it accepts the repositioning of the Israeli occupation army around the 22% of occupied Palestine 67 and allows the Palestinians to refer to it as a state. The differences between J Street and AIPAC amount to a minor disagreement over the extent of the repositioning of the Israeli occupation army around occupied Palestine 67 and the tone and propaganda strategy that best serves the mutually agreed upon and expressly stated objectives of both lobbying groups. The differences are not unlike what distinguishes the Likud from Kadima or the Labor party.
Although J Street does not offer a vision for a just peace – which any rational, unbiased, and moral observer recognizes would require Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied Arab land followed by the dismantlement of the colonial Zionist state, the return of the Palestinian refugees, and the establishment of a single unified Palestine – it does offer liberal Jewish-American Zionists an opportunity to feel better about their commitment to Israel while promoting an agenda that is identical to the one supported by the ostensibly more extreme, right-wing members of the pro-Israel lobby.
J Street appearance on the scene has also offered a small contingent of establishment Arab-Americans the opportunity to play the role of the “reasonable” and “peace-loving” Arab eager to distinguish him/herself from the stereotypical anti-Semitic, violent, extremist Arab that wants to “drive the Jews into the sea.” Self-appointed Arab-American spokespersons like James Zogby or Ray Hanania have relished every opportunity to appear with members of J Street, interview any of its leaders, or attend their events and galas. Zogby actively promotes J Street and Jeremy Ben Ami is a regular on his vapid weekly talk show on Abu-Dhabi (or as Jim says “Abew-Dobby”) TV. Hanania attended last year’s J Street conference spending his entire time there tweeting praise for the racist gathering hoping to be invited back as a speaker this year. Colonial feminist and a proud normalizer with Israel, Egyptian-American corporate media darling Mona Eltahawy also attended last year’s J Street gathering and received a thunderous ovation. For these establishment Arab-Americans attending a J Street event or being seen with a Jewish supporter of Israel is an affirmation of their humanity and provides evidence that despite belonging to a suspect group they’re really one of “the good ones.”
We expect the likes of Zogby, Hanania, and Eltahawy to clamor for a photo-op with a “pro-peace” J Streeter or an appearance at a J Street event, and while their participation is disgraceful, we can readily (should we choose to do so) disregard that unrepresentative, tiny minority of establishment Arab-Americans, most of whom have no connection to the Arab world, and their American-style buffoonery. However, when a well-known, Palestinian public figure residing in occupied Ramallah travels to Washington to participate in an event for the pro-Israel lobby, it becomes entirely something else that can’t be so easily dismissed. This is not the first time Barghouti has visited the US to engage in a series of misguided public relations stunts. During a previous visit in 2009, Barghouti traveled around in the company of a Jewish-American, female “peace activist” which included an awkward appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It was a strange performance for Barghouti who was visibly strained to send the message that a Palestinian can sit side by side with a Jewish person from which the audience was supposed to extrapolate that Palestinians are indeed human beings who can exist with other human beings of a different religious persuasion. He’s also written editorials in mainstream US print media which almost always sound apologetic and desperate to prove the humanity and peaceful nature of the Palestinians to an American audience. Here is the most recent one in the NY Times in which Barghouti preaches non-violence, as if the Palestinians, the victims of massive violence for over six decades, have an obligation to prove to a Western audience that they are a peaceful people.
In addition to the false notion that J Street is any different than AIPAC, Barghouti’s amateurish public relations efforts proceed from a couple of other false assumptions and misunderstandings of American politics. Barghouti travels to Washington with the belief the US government remains the key to “peace” between Israel and the Palestinians. After decades of unlimited, unconditional support for Israel, and the sacred status Israel continues to hold within the American political and electoral system, any entertainment of the idea the US can play a constructive role in reaching a “peaceful settlement” between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab world is completely detached from reality and utterly preposterous. The US government is part of the conflict, and not part of any “solution” and remains the sponsor and protector of Israel’s colonial occupation, an accomplice in all of its crimes, and the single greatest obstacle to peace in the region. It is time to dispense with the obvious lie that the US government is an honest peace broker or interested in anything other than preserving Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its role as a garrison state in the service of imperialism and American domination of the Arab world.
Barghouti’s decision to come to Washington and attend a J Street event is part of a strategy based on several layers of misunderstanding and confusion. Barghouti’s approach betrays a simplistic understanding of US foreign policy that focuses solely on the pro-Israel lobby while ignoring other critical determinants beyond the scope of this piece. Furthermore, Barghouti’s confusion regarding J Street’s alleged support for a just peace is further compounded by his seeming exaggeration of that potentially “positive” influence on US foreign policy towards Arab-Israeli conflict. The naiveté shown in Barghouti’s approach becomes even more glaring when he presumes any Palestinian support of the “moderate” member of the pro-Israel lobby will help strengthen its influence at the expense of AIPAC. In reality this discussion is between two groups within the pro-Israel lobby about the best way to preserve the Zionist project and ensure the survival of Israel. Palestinian support for either faction in the discussion will have no impact and is ultimately irrelevant. Finally, and most importantly, it is not the role or responsibility of any member of a colonized and occupied people to offer his imprimatur to the ostensibly more moderate faction of the colonizers and occupiers, and if Barghouthi insists on a strategy of reaching out to the mythical pro-peace Zionists, he’s better off saving his air fare and participating in the conferences and conventions of Kadima or the Labor party in occupied Palestine which is what J Street represents here in the US.
Barghouti’s political pilgrimage to J Street was an example of unprincipled, misguided, and foolish antics and an amateurish experiment in public relations that will not serve or help the Palestinian people. His participation in this event, which featured war criminal and butcher Ehud Olmert as an honored guest, was also unconscionable. Olmert was the Prime Minister of the Zionist entity during the winter 2008-2009 slaughter in Gaza, and was responsible for the planning and execution of that massacre. That alone should merit Barghouti’s refusal to be involved in such an event.
Barghouti’s appearance at J Street did not and cannot achieve anything of value for the Palestinian people, but his latest trip to Washington was not entirely without any personal achievement. For his participation in the J Street gala, his strategy of empowering a racist, Zionist group in America so it may, at some point in the future, impact and change US foreign policy to the benefit of the Palestinians, and his willingness to appear at an event that honored the latest Israeli butcher of Gaza ikhras is pleased to present Dr. Mustafa Barghouti with the March 2012 Ikhras Shoe Of The Month.
Every month Ikhras awards the Muntadhar Zaidi “Shoe of the month” to the House Arab or Muslim individual or organization whose behavior that month best exemplifies the behavior of what Malcolm X described, in the language of his own time, as the “house negro” (see video). The award is named in honor of the brave Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Zaidi who threw his shoes at the war criminal George W. Bush at a time House Arabs and Muslims were dining with him at the White House and inviting him to their mosques. Arab dictators and puppets of the empire are also qualified to enter the shoe of the month competition based on their own subservience to U.S.-led global imperialism. Contest guidelines prohibit any one individual or organization from winning the award more than 3 times a year.