Two Signs that Anti-Zionism is Off-Base.

Sign #1: The Pursuit of Justice

I’ve often found it interesting the way different values and rules of conduct prevail in different spheres of society.  Democratic ideals, for example, though a defining credo in the United States (at least until recently, anyway), are hardly manifest in every domain of my country.  For example, the American workplace has its tyrannical bosses; the family, its sibling inequalities; and of course, the dating scene is undemocratic in the extreme.

Nevertheless, the U.S. legal system was indeed designed to promote fair trials, as expected of a democracy.  Anyone who has ever watched American TV and film knows this.  The accused must fully understand the charges against her, while those giving testimony must swear they will tell the truth.  As for the jurors, they must consider all the evidence before reaching a verdict.  Hence if Chaim Schwartz stands accused of stealing Abdul al-Halal’s falafel cart, the juror must puzzle it through once it emerges that the cart was actually registered to Schwartz – although a kosher certificate was paid for by Abdul.  It’s hard work!  Plus, jurors must understand degrees of guilt.

And not every citizen can be a juror.  If you have a mental disability or are prejudiced – say, you have a problem with people named Chaim or Abdul – you’re not supposed to qualify.  The system also tries to shield jurors from “spin.”  If it is discovered that a juror heard pertinent information outside the courtroom, this is grounds for a mistrial.

Needless to say, justice can still be subverted.  I once served on the six-person jury of a drunk driving case.  Appallingly, the other jurors’ only takeaway from the trial was sympathy for someone who “merely” knocks back a few before hitting the road.  But at least the American legal system does its utmost to thwart human tendencies toward partiality and abuse.

On the other hand, the social justice movement that is sweeping the U.S. is among those spheres that, ironically perhaps, is not beholden to democratic protocol.  This is actually unsurprising considering that “social justice” is an imprecise concept with no adjudication authority behind it.  Anyone who has ever suffered a social snub or read a novel of manners may understand the difficulty of reconciling “social” and “justice.”

In fact, when you examine the implicit rules for serving “social justice” – wherein anti-Zionism is cited – you see that they are not only different from those designed to see legal justice served, they are their complete opposite. These rules include:

  • Don’t listen to evidence from both sides.
  • Don’t hesitate to think with your gut.
  • Don’t bother about the legal meaning of any term (“apartheid,” “occupation,” “war crime,” etc.).
  • Don’t discuss the case with dissenting peers.
  • Don’t worry about establishing a motive (“evil” works).
  • Don’t worry about legal precedent.
  • Don’t seek the “truth,” as there are only “narratives,” i.e., anecdotal evidence (But do call anything you dislike a “lie.”)
  • Don’t seek consistency (see above).
  • Oh, and make it about you!

Well-educated, engaged, and kind-hearted individuals I know – who likely would make exemplary jurors in a courtroom – proudly obey at least some of the above rules.

It’s odd in a way: the American legal system is hundreds of years old and most Americans have lived with it all their lives.  So one might think that at least the spirit of legal-caliber justice would have become as American as consumerism, youthfulness, or goal-setting.  But no; for many, it didn’t take.

In fact, the alternative rules are so imposing that they might as well be another legal code.  Can you imagine a new member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) saying, “How about we get together with the Zionist guys and go over primary sources from 1948 to see what exactly happened?”  He would be physically dragged from “court”!

Hence Israel is on trial, decade after decade (no right to a speedy trial either!), facing the death penalty no less.  Whatever the street verdict is in the court of public opinion will in time become the democratic vote, which then becomes national policy.  Yet there was no jury selection involved. Anyone can be a juror, including closet antisemites, the mentally disabled, and teenagers who can’t find Israel on a map.  Moreover, the jurors get to shout their opinions from the jury box.  Absent are all of the laws that these “jurors” would accept – or at least be reticent about opposing – if Israel were an individual on trial in U.S. federal court.  Yet nobody bats an eye.

Sign #2: The Pursuit of Happiness                                             

Looking over the foregoing, I can see how some anti-Zionists might find it deplorably “Old Testament” in its fixation on laws.  Perhaps the loving heart is the only appropriate arbiter of justice.  Let’s explore.

Supposing a white woke anti-Zionist living in idyllic California is friend and neighbor to Rashida, of Palestinian origin.  Rashida is an older woman who was horribly wronged decades ago by a man named Reginald. Rashida and Reginald had been engaged to be married, but then Reginald upped and married Esther, a woman he had just met.  Worse, the happy couple, now with children and grandchildren, still lives nearby.  There has been no getting over this grief and humiliation for Rashida; it still eats at her daily.  Although in a technical (legal) sense Reginald may not have been “her” man, the trauma is real.

What kind of advice can we suppose Rashida’s friend will offer her?  Will it be, “Keep digging in until you get your man!  Don’t slacken the anger!”  Or, “Do not build a new life!  The only life for you is with Reginald!  I’ll pay all your bills meantime.”

Of course not.

More likely, the caring friend might give Rashida “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, an Oprah Winfrey book favorite.  Or she might share insights from other personal growth and relationship advice resources, which have such universal appeal that self-help is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. For example:

  • Being angry at someone only hurts yourself.
  • Forgive those who wrong you.
  • No one can make you feel any particular way.
  • Practice non-attachment.
  • Live in the present, not the past.
  • Know that everyone sees the world differently.

But now let’s suppose Rashida comes to her friend with a different source of sorrow – the Palestinian “Nakba.”   Oddly, all the rules for acquiring happiness and well-being now change.  To clarify, the new grievance is that Rashida could be living in sunny Israel instead of sunny California had her parents not fled the war that Arab countries started when they invaded the new Jewish state in a failed attempt (“Nakba”) to make it Arab.  And while it’s true that Rashida has never been to the Middle East, her U.N. designation of “refugee” ensures that she remain emotionally stuck, just as the Mideast conflict remains politically stuck. (Palestinians – and only Palestinians – are considered refugees for all generations in perpetuity, an anomaly worth contemplating.)

And so, similar to how social justice warriors’ rules outside a courtroom are the complete opposite of those inside, their advice for supporting the Palestinian people is completely opposite of that for supporting a Palestinian person. It includes:

  • Live in the past.
  • Never forget an injury and never move on.
  • Stay angry at all times.
  • It’s always constructive to feel like a victim.
  • Keep the negative emotions flowing until you get what you want.
  • Other people’s behavior determines your emotions; you don’t.
  • Attachment is good, so fixate on possessing something.
  • The only way to look at reality is your way.
  • Don’t hesitate to be destructive, verbally and otherwise.

And here too, the rules are so hard and fast that should someone break one – for example, were a college student who is helping mount an “Apartheid Wall’ mockup to muse aloud, “I’m starting to think it might not be emotionally healthy to keep hating on Zionists,” I suspect his activist career would be ended.

Sadly, therefore, not only do anti-Zionist social justice warriors fall short in their approach to justice, but they also appear to fall short in advancing happiness.  Yet no doubt, Rashida’s otherwise grounded friend feels quite good in following the rules that “pro-Palestinians” play by and is quite convinced that she is “repairing the world” with them.

It is a truly perverse state of affairs.

***

Note: In time to come, it may be that “social justice” rules do indeed enter the courtroom, as this article was written before Critical Race Theory received sanction at the federal level.  Per Richard Delgado, one of CRT’s founders, CRT “questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” CRT was derived from the critical legal studies (CLS) movement, which was an offshoot of Marxist-oriented critical theory.

 

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