The month of March has been a difficult one for communicating the needs of Palestinian justice. It has seen the challenge of suppression and most recently appropriation.
On March 18, the California State Board of Education approved an Ethnic Studies curriculum whose Arab American studies module was revised to exclude any mention of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and it completely erased the mention of Palestine. This suppression of language concerning Palestine has been preceded by adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism that has been commonly and falsely understood to mean that criticism of the State of Israel is antisemitic. Consequently, 27 States now penalize organizations or individuals within their jurisdiction that participate in boycotts targeting Israel.
Also on March 18 Alex Kane reported for Jewish Currents the creation of a new group called “Heart of a Nation” to tell the Israeli story “the right way” for a progressive audience. Rather than suppression this is an appropriation of communication, taking progressive language to tell a regressive story. The need for this is the increasing progressive anxiety over the distortion and erasure mentioned above as well as ongoing discrimination against Palestinian Christians and Muslims. The group “Heart of a Nation” is being formed by Jonathan Kessler who has stepped down as a senior AIPAC director.
The Episcopal Church is not immune from this nation-wide suppression of communication regarding Palestinian justice. It is not unusual to hear the argument that resolutions and communications respecting divestment, boycott, occupation and settlement expansion must be muted for fear of Israeli political pushback and its hampering of the ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The Bishop in Jerusalem however has made it very clear that only he speaks for his Diocese and the 30 some social, educational, and health organizations in the Middle East. The American Church cannot use his Diocese as a means of suppressing its own concerns for justice in Palestine.
Communication is at the heart of creative problem solving, respect, and dialogue. Efforts to suppress and appropriate in order to sustain inequities undermine the beloved community that the Palestine Israel Network seeks to build.
Thanks to EPF PIN member Cliff Cutler for this thoughtful essay.