Anti-normalization and the Israeli Left – a Facebook debate

Could there be a joint political space for radical Jewish leftists and activists in the Palestinian diaspora when anti-normalization is on the rise? Should there be one?

Anti-normalization is becoming one of the hottest topics in progressive Israeli and Palestinian circles (ironically, it is not a problem for those elements of society who never been in touch with each other or oppose any form of common existence). Almost any event or activity – even ones which are done in resistance to the occupation – lead to debates on the merit and the legitimacy of joint actions. Here is one example.

The letter below was posted on Facebook by “The Jordanian Popular Boycott Movement,” following the intention of some Israelis – Jews and Palestinians – to travel to a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Amman, Jordan. The debate which followed went far beyond this particular event. The position taken by three of the four Palestinians is rather extreme (I have previously heard a much more nuanced case for anti-normalization), but this is not the first time I witness this dynamic, so I decided to post it here.

Here is the original anti-normalization letter – click on the image to view it in full size.

Anti-normalization and the Israeli Left - a Facebook debate
Here is the debate – I deleted some of the comments in the interest of clarity and length. The post itself, and all the comments, are public.

Noa: (Israeli) Cau I ask a question?

how come Zionists are “all Israeli nationality holders that are non-Arabs”, but then you say you reject all Zionists, irrelevant of their race and religious orientation”?

I was born Jewish in Israel. I have fought all my life along with my rifaq, the Palestinians of 48′, and other anti Zionist Jews as myself, against Zionism inside Israel.

I refused to serve in the Israeli occupation army and my friends sat in jail 2 years for that refusal. I’m involved with bi-National anti Zionist activism for years, and I can tell you more if you’re interesting. you can also ask Palestinian activists from here, they can tell you, I’m sure.

I’m also sure you can guess how the Israeli mainstream treats Jewish anti-Zionists as myself.

But then you call me a Zionist, just for being a non-Arab Israeli – well, these identities are ones I was born with. I chose to be an anti Zionist, and your decision to ignore this choice and see me as a Zionist just for my Jewish family goes against all the other things you say.

Your attempts to set the Palestinians of 48′ apart from their Jewish anti-Zionist allies hurts the possibility of struggle for both sides, and pushes us anti Zionist Jews back to our original community, and away from the connections with the activists who can teach us about the Palestinian reality and fight with us against the Israeli apartheid.

So actually you want me to be Zionist?

Of you just don’t care, I was born a Jew and that’s all I can ever be?


Noa: How do I serve the Zionist project? I was among the organizers of the refusal movement, of Jewish Israelis who refuse to serve the Israeli army, my male friends sat years in jail because they refused to serve. I was born in Israel and so were my parents. My grand parents were refugees from three different countries – where is that you want to send me? Poland, Romania or Hungary? I have no other citizenship, and I have fought against the Zionist regime more than most of your friends.

So if you still judge me just on the background of my birth, what does it make you?


Noa wanna split me into 3 different pieces?

I belong here, and not going anywhere else.

I believe you need to start to differentiate between Jewish and Zionist. The struggle against Zionism is the struggle to live together in an open and equal democratic state of Palestinians and Jews together, and not the struggle to return back to the past and send all the Jews away in a second Nakba. Otherwise you’re no better than the Zionists.

Zeina (Palestinian): Noa, you keep throwing religion into this, while the letter is clearly not making any distinctions on the basis of religion. Rather, it is the Zionist movement that is claiming Palestine as a land for Jews. There were Palestinian Jews coexisting in Palestine with Christians and Muslims long before 1948, for us, it is not about religion. The issue is very simple, any person who came from anywhere else in the world to live in Palestine under the so called name of “Israel” is serving the Zionist project. I don’t think I need to remind you that every one of you is living in the place of a Palestinian that was either martyred or expelled. For us, it is Palestine, always has been and always will be. A true anti-Zionist would pick and up and leave the land to its native inhabitants: Muslims, Christians, Jews, or atheists; doesn’t really matter as long as they are Palestinian.

Noa: Jaffa is my only homeland, dear Zeina.

Colonialism is different in different contexts, and unlike the French in Algeria, in this context there’s no metropolin to return to. The Jews were thrown here because of hirtorical events unconnected to Palestine, but after 3 generations, we’ve mixed so much, cut all our roots in our previous countries and grown roots in here. That’s the reality of our generation, and if you stll think 6 million people need to be uprooted again, and no joined future is possible, well – you sound just like the Zionists to me.

Lihi (Israeli): so do you suggest i go back to iraq? how, exactly?

Lihi: and i have one more question – are you objecting the after party or the concept of me as a jew whos origins are not palestinians (morroco & iraq) to come to the concert?

Diaa (Journalist, AP): Reporters question: This is a letter, but will you try enforce this in any way? Will there be demonstrations before or after the Mashrou Leila party? Will you demonstrate at the border where Israelis enter Jordan every day, or just at the mashrou leila party? Will you take responsibility for any Israeli put in danger by your actions? Please do let me know. You can always write to me at my FB address

Ruba (Palestinian, originally from Gaza): well Noa, this Zionist state have gathered between Colonialism, occupation and apartheid, and if you look at your argument or discussion you will find that you defends the Zionist state more than defending all Palestinian rights (Inside Palestine or exile). for me i can’t trust a person who say that I did this and that and I support you and all solidarity with you , but in the other hand he/she saying that the land that my ancestors stole is my own land. don’t you ever think you away of your ancestors guilt.

And don’t you ever forget that we can make a peace, negotiation or open dialogue between us before we became at the same level of scale, there is a difference between occupied and occupation, and if you believe in justice do like many of pre “Israeli” did, drop your Zionist nationality….. get a way of this page and don’t trying to bleach your image here, no space for zionest here.

Noa: As I said, I have no Zionist identity, and I do not defend Zionism.

I believe most of the Palestinian political streams today say like me- that tearing down Zionism and deport all the Jews are not the same thing. As Arafat once said – you do not answer a crime by doing another crime.

And I do take my ancestors guilt on me, otherwise I’d live happily in my privileged state and not fight for the Palestinian rights.
But no, that doesn’t mean I’ll leave, cause I have no other home.

If you accept these basic sayings – then you and me have a joined struggle to do against Israeli Colonialism, occupation and apartheid.

If your struggle is aimed at uprooting me – well, that’s too bad. you’re too much like the mainstream in my society, the one that calls me a traitor.

Roi (Israeli): All my grandparents immigrated to Palestine from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus in the 30s, before the war, with legal certificates from the British mandate. My mother still remembers how as a little child she was sent to tell Palestinians to get out of the area they settled (she thinks they may have been the original inhabitants, but this was more than 10 years after the land was settled by Jews; I did not check the history of this specific site, so I don’t know if these specific lands were inhabited before my grandparents settled there; anyway, the point is that in one way or another, my grandparents were involved in displacing Palestinians in the 30s and 40s; later on, members of my family fought in wars that further displaced Palestinians, and served the Israeli “security” industry in all sorts of ways). According to the rules of my grandparents’ countries of origin I do not have access to their passports.

If I understand correctly, it’s the post-48 Jewish immigrants that you consider Zionists. So does this story make me a Zionist or not? does it matter for this question what I think and do about the law of Jewish return, the right of Palestinian return, apartheid, discrimination and ongoing displacement within 48 and 67 Palestine? Or does it only matter whether my grandparents immigrated before or after 1948?

Is my displacement the best way to correct the wrong done to Palestinians? Or is there room for a vision of just restoration and return that will allow for an equitable and peaceful existence of all sorts of people between the river and the sea?
As a Jew with Israeli citizenship, should I even participate in this discussion, or should I just listen, learn and do as I’m told (as I sometimes do in contexts where I am in a privileged position, and am not invited to express my thoughts)?

Maroun (Palestinian) [Google Translate – original in Arabic] Mesh Ader understand Shaw [what] problem exactly … BAS sheft comrades “sort” and “barrier” Uncle betnaksho … Means the solution proposed by alodmin is illogical, irrational, racist and extremist

Not recognized by the Zionist entity … I’m not bshionia, I am an Arab proudly … But I’m with peace between Arabs and Jews in the region. Proof of the existence of Jews in this country comes from the Torah, the Gospel and the Koran and many other scientific historical books … We are Arabs and Jews will keep fighting for a better Middle East, free of war, racism and extremism. Ana mesh with Zionism … But I’m with coexistence between Arabs and Jews in this country. I’m with two States (without the Zionist character) one of the other side, safely and lovingly aysheen and dignity:)

We in the Democratic front for peace and equality, we believe strong and realistic solution.

[posting a video on Arab-Jewish cooperation within Hadash party]

Arie (Israeli): Your attitude is the greatest dream and gift of Zionism. If you present to me as a Jew only 2 options, continue Zionism or Death (because I have no where to go and no country will take me). If only these 2 options exist than I guess I should choose Zionism, and that is sad.

Ruba: It’s obvious this page not for any of you, and its more obvious we don’t want to deal with any one of you at any level. stop telling us your stories you are not the case owners, we are the case owner . so stop telling us your stories to gain our sympathize. And how you asking for equality, I will come to your place and steal your house and then when we rise the case at the court I will ask them to divide your house for two halves between you and me, is this equal for you.

Zeina: The issue right now is having “normal” relationships with so called Israel, that a non-Palestinian Israeli can simply enter Jordan to attend a party! The peace treaty between Jordan and Israel does not represent me just like it does not represent the majority of Jordanian people, make no mistake. In conclusion, DO NOT come to Jordan.

UPDATE: I gathered my thoughts regarding this exchange and posted some of them here