The Korean and Korean American Civil Society
We are Korean. Almost 6 million of us were killed during Japanese Occupation (1 million) and The Korean Civil War (5 million), which was also a proxy war between Super Powers (The U.S. and Russia, and to a lesser extent, China). Almost the entire Korean Peninsula was decimated by Super Powers during the Korean War. General MacArthur described dead bodies everywhere and obliterated cities and villages. He hadn’t seen anything like it, not even in World War II. President Truman and General MacArthur considered nuclear options on the Peninsula. MacArthur argued that it was more humane to kill Koreans faster with nuclear bombs rather than killing us slowly with more conventional weapons of mass destruction. Koreans were a whim away from a nuclear holocaust-apocalypse. MacArthur wanted to recreate Hiroshima and Nagasaki 15-30 times over on the Peninsula.
South Koreans protested, fought, and died for Democracy. Yet, nobody called us terrorists. Before the Gwangju Massacre in 1980, 100,000 people in Seoul protested in front of the American Embassy. Protesters started scaling the Embassy walls. The U.S. military and government have blood on their hands for the Gwangju Massacre. The U.S. ordered South Korea’s Military Dictator President, Chun Doo-Hwan, to turn South Korean soldiers against their own people. Gwangju protesters took up arms against South Korean soldiers. Koreans had lived under military rule for almost 100 years. First it was Japanese Occupation, The Korean War, and one president after another who was a military dictator. It wasn’t until 1993, when Kim Young Sam was elected president that South Korea had a non-military dictator President. In 2016 and 2017, Millions came out to successfully impeach President Park Geun-Hye. We are familiar with propaganda campaigns, both domestic and international. South Koreans fought for their right to protest. Millions of South Koreans were killed while fighting for self determination. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian Self Determination.
Asking a Palestinian if they want a one-state or two-state solution is presenting them with a false choice. It is a mockery of more urgent existential issues and also incorrectly assumes equal agency with Israel on the matter. The only entities who can make the immediate choice of legitimizing a one-state or two-state solution is American Israel. Currently, single or binational state solutions are both equally remote for Palestinians. They are forced to live in limbo, a purgatory where their basic human rights are not recognized, not even freedom of movement. Another urgent question today is how to characterize the nature of the conflict in the international community. The international community has demonstrated greater ease and speed with characterizing Israel as an Apartheid State, than a Colonial State. The facts are what Netanyahu’s Israel acts as, not what liberal Zionists hoped Israel would become. Hopes are not the facts or actions of today’s Israel. Netanyahu’s American Israel is not the constructed and imagined Israel of Elie Wiesel.
Zionism was constructed in Europe. It did not begin with Jews living in the Middle East or North Africa. We are not here to argue about Zionism. We are simply stating the fact that it began in Europe. There was no negotiation with Palestinians or Arabs before Zionism descended upon Palestine. A holocaust in Europe laid the grounds for an apocalypse in Palestine. Aspects of Zionism adopted American Christian evangelical narratives to cement a bond and a shared narrative of exceptionalism that includes apocalyptic tropes. The feelings were mutual. Politics make for strange bedfellows.
“The phrase “our American Israel comes from a Puritan expression of colonial American exceptionalism. In 1799, Abiel Abbot, a Massachusetts minister, preached a Thanksgiving sermon titled “Traits of Resemblance in the People of the United States of America to Ancient Israel”.“Our American Israel – Amy Kaplan.” – Amy Kaplan | Harvard University Press, https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674737624.
America’s most fervent supporters of Israel at any cost are largely Evangelical Christians, Neocons, and Neoliberals. Of course ardent Zionists are part of it. However, American Jewish opinions on Israel tend to be a lot more varied than the aforementioned groups. The romance of what Israel might become has been overshadowed by the reality of what Israel is for an increasing number of American Jews as they become distant from Israel.
We’re not here to argue about the Jewish Right to Return. It already happened. Even the most fervent Zionist does not disagree that Palestinians were dispossessed and displaced during the founding of the modern nation state of Israel. The Zionist argument here is that Palestinians deserve to be dispossessed and displaced because they are inferior and Zionists are superior, exceptional. Factual statements likes this typically lead to accusations of antisemitism, a puerile, yet extremely noisy trope of the Islamophobia industry ultra-nationalists, and tyrannical politicians. Casual accusations of antisemitism at any criticism of Israel undermine fighting real antisemitism. They do not serve anti-antisemitism. Israel is a nation state, a political entity. To conflate this with personhood is absurd. These slash and burn accusations only serve to drown out dialogue, the peacemaking process, and objective criticism with a barrage of words and histrionics over a poor word choice or two. It’s also an invincible victim and exceptionalist argument. If Jews and the rest of humanity have a right to return, Palestinians have a Right to Return. It is not lost on us that Palestinians are collectively punished for antisemitism in Europe.
Lean, Nathan, and John L. Esposito. The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims. Pluto Press, 2017.
What we are here to argue is that international laws and domestic laws regarding the Right to Return should be doled out equally to Palestinians. There is a very short, direct line, dates, and receipts for when Palestinians were forcibly dispossessed and displaced for over 7 decades since Nakba (the catastrophe).
It is illegal as a matter of international law to deny refugees of a particular race, color, national or ethnic origin the right to return to their homes. Yet, subsequent Israeli laws barred Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes in what is now Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (Law of Return), sanctioned mass denationalization laws targeting Palestinian refugees (Nationality Law), and confiscated Palestinian private property and land-holdings (Absentee Property Law and Land Acquisition Law). While the Right of Return remains the primary remedy, Palestinian refugees are entitled to reparations of their homes and properties based on the UN Principles and Guidelines, ICCPR Article 2, and other instruments. Reparations entail restitution (including right to return), compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction of victims, and guarantee of non-repetition.
Today, there are 7 million Palestinian refugeeshttps://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/palestinian-refugees-and-the-right-of-return-in-international-law/
160 UN countries vote for Palestinians to Claim Restitutions for Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Land. “It is one of 17 annual pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli resolutions the UNGA has approved this month.” Please note the tired trope of pro-Israel writers constantly framing anything pro-Palestine as anti-Israel. We asked them to grow up and act like they’re have a normal disagreements like other countries do.
The Road to Statehood for Palestine
International and diplomatic recognition of The State of Palestine as a sovereign state has steadily increased since the Oslo Accords. In 2017, Interpol accepted The State of Palestine as a member. At the same time, the characterization of Israel as an Apartheid State has steadily gained traction. We’re not here to argue whether or not Israel is an Apartheid State. We are merely reporting on global and domestic opinions in political, diplomatic, and academic spheres that call Israel an Apartheid State. This characterization has also been made by Israeli politicians and academics. In 2018, Netanyahu’s Israel passed a Jewish Nation-State Law. This was a self defining moment and the message is clear. We don’t feel the need to characterize it. Trump recently mirrored Netanyahu by declaring that Judaism is a nationality.
139 of 193 UN countries recognize The State of Palestine. Sweden was the first European country to recognize The State of Palestine. 9 out of 28 EU countries recognize The State of Palestine. Last month, Canada voted to support a Palestinian State. Recently, Luxembourg urged the EU to recognize The State of Palestine. The EU has long expressed the diplomatic desire to recognize The State of Palestine as a sovereign state. Now, they are expressing the political will for full recognition of The State of Palestine.
BDS Has Some Losses, Now and Then. However, BDS is Winning The Long Conversation. BDS is Winning Hearts and Minds.
Even when BDS loses, it wins. When BDS activists are criminalized, the Palestinian cause becomes a matter for Civil Liberties organizations. When anti-BDS laws are passed, it galvanizes ever more diverse groups of supporters. Every argument against BDS shines a spotlight on BDS that attracts an ever more diverse and international band of supporters. The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Richard Gere, and Angela Davis support BDS in a united voice. Namjoon Kim, of the Korean boy band BTS, even joined the conversation in favor of Palestine. The faces of BDS are global icons of peace, the objects of romantic fantasies, and leaders of the Black Power Movement and Civil Rights Movement in America. BDS is winning influencer marketing, which convinces Israel that it has a PR problem rather than a policy problem. Hint: It’s a policy problem. While Israel’s formal policy is to crush and silence BDS; The Palestinian Youth Movement owns social media in an engagingly chatty sort of way with tens of thousands of shares and retweets.
We think of Edward Said’s beautifully written and at times searingly pithy essay “On Lost Causes”, when we think of BDS. BDS is winning in Academia. It is winning in the impotent halls of student government organizations and ethnic studies departments. The Global South views Israel as a settler colonial or colonial state. BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) in America stand in solidarity with the Palestine struggle for self determination. We point to facts in history such as the French losing diplomatically in Algeria. For all its military might, France could not win the war of ideas and global public opinion. South Africa’s Apartheid lasted about 50 years (discrimination against Black South African by whites began much earlier). France relinquished their colonial grip on Algeria after 132 years. Palestine is in middle of these timelines. It’s been 71 years since Nakba (catastrophe). Nakba is not a crime of the past, it is ongoing.
The State of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948. The creation of Israel was a violent process that entailed the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland to establish a Jewish-majority state, as per the aspirations of the Zionist movement.
Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9 million population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, ethnically cleansed and destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres.https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/nakba-start-1948-170522073908625.html
The Palestinian Cause is like The Algerian Cause. It should not be viewed through the lens of social science like the French Revolution or the American Revolution. Most of the rest of the world views the Palestinian Cause through the lens of Anti-Colonial Resistance or Apartheid Resistance. The sort of resistance that led to the decolonization of much of the world during the last century. They cannot be reduced to mere violent acts, they are great social phenomena. They’re borderless and can be staged in any country or college campus. The reality is that BDS hasn’t harmed Israel’s economy yet. It’s a non-violent movement. The more tyrannical the reaction is against BDS, the more BDS wins in intellectual arenas, on college campuses, civil liberties organizations, and grassroots organizations. Israel fights BDS at the cost of its own democracy.
The second factor is who makes the judgment, the believer or someone who stands outside the cause, perhaps an active opponent, a professional historian, philosopher, or social scientist, an indifferent onlooker? In the world of political causes a common psychological strategy is for opponents to try to undermine confidence in the cause that opposes them; a battle of wills ensues in which one side attempts to pile up one achievement or “actual fact” after another in the hope of discouraging people on the other side, demonstrating to them that they can have no hope of winning. In such a situation “hearts and minds” have to be won, or must be lost. Antonio Gramsci’s political theory of the struggle for hegemony gave this contest a central place in modern politics and explains the motto (taken from Romain Rolland) that he affixed to his journal L’Ordine nuovo: “pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will.” Yet no matter how fraught a situation is, it remains for the person whose cause it is to make the final determination, to keep the initiative, retain the prerogative.Said, Edward. Reflections on Exile: and Other Literary and Cultural Essays. Granta, 2012.
Colonial narratives start from the outside, obviously. Native populations are unprepared. It takes time for them to figure out the narratives of settlers. It takes native elites a generation to start grooming their children, like Edward Said, to serve the cause of their people. Two -three generations later, the elite education has become more available to a broader segment of Palestinians. There are enough young Palestinians and their supporters on college campuses and social media now to cause a stir. They are winning the left and more importantly, the center, all over the world. The Palestinian Cause is increasingly internationalized. Student movements are a critical component of anti-colonial strategies. The Algerians and Koreans did this in their fight for self-determination. Algerians learned Modern Standard Arabic and French. Koreans studied Japanese and English. It was the only way to learn the narratives of colonizers and internationalize our stories. BDS is nudging confessions, admissions, and unholy alliances to come out from the recesses that keep a Palestinian state in limbo. This no-state purgatory is effectively a one state reality for Palestinians (The State of Israel), while their lawfully recognized land is being stolen an inch at a time. At times, BDS has blow backs and losses. BDS keeps forcing the conversation. BDS fundamentally altered and reframed the dialogue and narratives of the conflict. Every response and anti-BDS action, affirms BDS.
In the Jewish diaspora, BDS has created new schisms on the centre-left, which has been forced into a vice by the rightwing and pro-settlement Israeli government on one hand, and the non-Zionist left on the other. It has prompted liberal Zionists to grapple with why they sometimes accept the boycott of products from settlements but not the boycott of the state that creates and sustains them. It has compelled Israel’s more critical supporters to justify their opposition to non-violent forms of pressure on Israel, when the absence of real pressure has done nothing to bring occupation or settlement expansion to an end. It has put the onus on liberal Zionists to defend their support not for the abstract ideal of what they hope Israel might one day become, but for the actual, longstanding practices of the state, including expropriations of Palestinian land for Jewish settlement; detention of hundreds of Palestinians without trial or charge; collective punishment of two million Gazans living under a more than decade-long blockade; and institutionalised inequality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. BDS has deprived Israel’s liberal supporters of the excuse that an aberrant occupation or rightwing governments are mainly to blame for the state’s undemocratic practices.THRALL, NATHAN. ONLY LANGUAGE THEY UNDERSTAND: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine. PICADOR, 2018.
The argument that even the most basic Palestinian rights mean the end of Israel is predicated on the existence of Israel as a persecutory and oppressive state against Palestinians. These sorts of reactions turn into self-affirmations. Scorched earth argumentative styles parallel with the apocalyptic tropes of Evangelicals who believe in End Times. The irony of this isn’t lost on us. So, we’re a bit confused why this scorched earth imagery is relentlessly used.
The idea that the political actions of the State of Israel are beyond reproach is patently absurd and tyrannical. Netanyahu has been the face of Israel for a very long time. “What’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s secret? How is it that he can do no wrong? We have lost count how many of his allies have turned into enemies. Words and agreements mean nothing to the man. He has bullied American presidents decades apart while remaining unscathed. His family life is a horror show, and he incites hatred among his people. He is responsible for making important segments of American Jews and Democratic Party politicians turn away from Israel in disgust. By word and deed, he makes a mockery of the Two-State Solution he (sometimes) claims to back.” Netanyahu’s meaning bending isn’t meant for fair minds. His hasbara is fire and brimstone. Israel is America’s favorite military welfare state. American Israel has to let the democratic process play itself out.
The next step in criminalizing BDS is to criminalize criticism of politicians, in which case the Western world will step into dictatorships. We call on Netanyahu to act like he’s having normal disagreements and conflicts like other countries do instead of a Manichean struggle between good and evil. We don’t buy into his belief system about the world where there is a fact-meaning continuum, in which Netanyahu’s meanings have more than three dimensions. We can’t resist quipping that Netanyahu’s obsession with Iran has something to do with his Manichean proclivities. Of course, Iran performs back at him. And they are theatrics. The evils and eliminationist antisemitism of Europe are being overlaid on Palestinians. The problems of the entire Arab world and Muslim world are overlaid on Palestinians. We will remind you that there are 7 million Palestinian refugees and Palestinian live in an Israeli military police state on their own land. Conflating global problems with Palestinians is propaganda to make the two sides in the conflict symmetrical power players or to make Israel David and Palestine Goliath– when the opposite is true. We are aware that Israel has extensive back door diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, America’s other bestie in the Middle East. We see the charade for what it is.
When reading young Palestinian thinkers, we note the clarity of their prose as third generation advocates for the cause of their people. We close in other parts of the world with We start with Vietnam because Kissinger, aka foreign policy disaster for Vietnam and The Middle East. Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Ngyuyen’s discussion about crafted American memory and Vietnamese collective memory. American memory constructs erase the Vietnamese experience. Vietnamese and Southeast Asian refugees reconstruct collective memory to undo invisibilization. Colonizers construct memories. The oppressed reconstruct memories collectively. It is a form of healing, truth telling, and perpetuating truth. Memory and the mind is a space that no colonizer can occupy. By the way, America lost in Vietnam before the internet. Online conversations only accelerate the internationalization of anti-colonial movements and add another layer to the social phenomena. BDS and Palestinian activists, backed by a diverse and international coalition of groups, have pushed the conflict into the 2020 presidential debate. Democrats are challenging the status quo of American Israel for the first time. The debate and the conversations aren’t going to end any time soon. BDS is forcing decisions out of limbo.
“Inspired by past documents such as the Movement for Black Lives platform, the “Freedom Is the Future” platform, released by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Adalah Justice Project, sets out a central ask: ending all U.S. economic and diplomatic support for Israel as long as it continues its denial of Palestinian rights. Alongside this are five further demands: the right of return for refugees; self-determination; freedom of movement for all Palestinians; an end to Israeli violence; and the right to organize against Israeli repression.”
Five demands is also reminiscent of Hong Kongers.https://www.972mag.com/2020-palestinian-platform-us-aid-israel/
Our next post about Solidarity with Palestine will be about Black4Palestine