In an interview with Muslim Press, Jeff Klein says the knife intifada is as much a rebuke to the Palestinian political establishment as it is a gesture of despair against the Israeli occupation.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: Mr. Klein, how do you analyze the role that the right-wing Zionist society plays in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Jeff Klein: For all practical purposes there is no meaningful distinction, other than in rhetoric, between “right-wing Zionists” and the mainstream of Israeli Zionist politics. Yes, there is an “extreme” right-wing in Israel which speaks openly of ethnic cleansing – or rather the continuation of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and possibly even 1948 Israel – and the razing of the Al Aqsa mosque, with its replacement by a “restored Jewish temple,” but in practice these ideas are very marginal within the Israeli political spectrum. Violence from Jewish extremists within Israel or by settlers in the occupied territories is tolerated but frowned upon by the Israeli mainstream parties.
Most mainstream Israeli parties give some kind of lip-service (often feigned) to the “peace process” and a “two-state solution” but are unwilling to negotiate seriously to accept an independent and sovereign Palestinian state within Greater Israel, no matter how small and contained. There is a very small Zionist “peace camp” which is probably sincere in advocating an end to the 1967 occupation and the maintenance of a Jewish majority state within the internationally-recognized borders of Israel.
But aside from that, the vast majority of Israeli politicians supports preserving indefinitely the present arrangement of practical Zionist control from the Jordan River to the sea, with varying degrees of local autonomy, but not Israeli citizenship. Some groups within and outside the governing coalition advocate unilateral annexation of all or part of the occupied territories, but the more pragmatic Zionists prefer to maintain the current ambiguous status quo. All off these mainstream Zionists see the permanent separation of Gaza from the West Bank and Greater Israel and its continuance as a kind of walled-off ghetto -- with the help of Sisi’ s Egypt and its Saudi financing – so that the Zionists can claim a Jewish majority in the rest of Palestine.
MP: What's your take on the "Knife Intifada" and its roots? What makes Palestinians react this way?
Jeff Klein: The so-called “knife intifada” is not an intifada at all – in the sense of a mass resistance uprising – but an expression of individual despair at the seeming intractable state of occupation and the absence of any realistic change for the better from the tactics pursued by the leadership of the “Palestinian National Authority” in Ramallah and the moribund PLO. Many of the older veteran activists, some of whom supported Oslo and some who did not, are getting old and tired, no longer capable of leading a determined resistance. Others, who are part of the PA and the peace process, have been consciously or effectively corrupted by the perquisites of power and money, however subordinate they may remain to the Zionist project. So, the knife intifada is as much a rebuke to the Palestinian political establishment as it is a gesture of despair against the Israeli occupation.
On the other hand, most Palestinians remain “historically optimistic” at least for the long run, while many Israeli Jews express an uneasiness about the permanence of the Zionist project in Palestine and are “voting with their feet” to find safer havens in Berlin or Brooklyn.
I wrote about these issues: ‘Morbid symptoms’ in Palestine - ‘We failed’ (In which a Palestinian activist abandons the peace process)
MP: How do you view the future of liberation and resistance movements?
Jeff Klein: I share the long-term optimism of most Palestinians, no matter how dark the prospects in the present and immediate future. The Crusader Kingdoms endured for a couple of centuries and now they survive only in the form of ruined and abandoned castles that dot the Levant. The French ruled Algeria for 130 years before independence. As long as the Palestinians retain their “sumud” or endurance, the Zionist project will have no permanent future.
On the other hand, the Palestinians need to find ways to rekindle an effective resistance to the occupation that will also stimulate a more fervent solidarity abroad, that can only grow in the light of blatant and increasingly racist actions by the Zionists. The increasing national consciousness and sophistication of the Palestinian minority within 1948 Israel will also play a role.
It is not up to me, as an American, to lay out what the Palestinians need to do, but a new generation of leadership must arise among them to plan a revived resistance.
MP: How does AIPAC affect the conflict?
Jeff Klein: “AIPAC” is shorthand for a broad and varied constellation of well-funded pro-Israel organizations in the US which mostly exercises unchallenged control of the politics around US relations with Israel, especially in Congress and the two major political parties. This once-radical assertion is no longer contested among serious observers of the US political scene, though it rarely finds expression in the mainstream media.
US political and financial support for Israel is a key element of Zionist power. Israel even uses its obvious influence on US politics as a diplomatic tool to bargain for advantage on the international stage.
As a US citizen in solidarity with the Palestinians, my main responsibility is to struggle to change the uncritical support for Israel within my country. In the long-run this is vital and decisive. There is some reason for optimism on this score. Public opinion has been changing in the US, especially among young people – including Jews – and at the base of the Democratic Party. Slowly but surely the Republicans and Democrats are drifting in different directs, with the former becoming the dominant “pro-Israel” party and the latter less so. This was very obvious in the politics around the struggle to ratify the Nuclear Agreement with Iran, where the Congress split on largely partisan lines. This is a threat to the dominance of AIPAC, which has always relied on “bipartisan” support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
On the other hand, the changes in opinion at the base of the Democratic Party have yet to make significant inroads in the “official” Democratic party and its leadership, as illustrated most recently in the unsuccessful fight to put some mildly anti-occupation language into the party platform. Important in this respect, is that up-to 50% of the campaign funding of the Democratic Party comes from wealthy, mostly conservative, Jewish supporters of Israel (25% of the Republican funding) – despite the fact that the large majority or US Jews are Liberal-to-Progressive politically and do not identify Israel and as a key motivating issue in their politics. The racist anti-Muslim agitation of the Zionist Right is also off-putting to Democratic Liberals and the movements of people of color within the US. Although there is much resistance In the Democratic establishment, I believe that opinion at the base will eventually force changes at the top, though not without effective organizing.
I also wrote about these issues: How AIPAC Rules - Romney’s Iran Campaign - Massachusetts State Treasurer candidate has anti-Iran agenda - Martin Kramer, Harvard and the Eugenics of Zion - Pro-Israel extremists have campaigned against an Islamic cultural center before - CAMERA doth protest too much re its role in Boston anti-mosque campaign
MP: Do you think the progressive movement, the Muslim community, etc. can counter AIPAC's political power in the United States?
Jeff Klein: I am optimistic in the long-run. Change is coming in the US, even if it is sometimes too glacially slow to notice, and the resistance by a well-funded pro-Israel establishment seems overwhelming. The movement for Boycott and Divestment – though not yet meaningfully for Sanctions – against Israel is gaining strength and affecting public opinion, especially among the youth. But so far there has been little success politically, where actual policy toward Israel is maintained. We have to organize better and more effectively to make this change. We are making some inroads in Massachusetts, where I live, but there is a long way to go. And our efforts must be duplicated all over the US – what I call it “The 50-State Solution”! The difference in resources and funding are important, but not as decisive as organizing the mass of people to change US policy. I am hopeful.
MP: At this point in time, how do you see the American people’s opinion regarding the conflict? Has it changed recently?
Jeff Klein: Yes, as I indicated above. If policy toward Israel within the US was conducted more openly and democratically (small “d”) there would be much more resistance, for example, in opposition to the enormous amount of aid military aid supplied to Israel. A majority of Americans would certainly choose to spend the $38 billion package recently negotiated by the Obama administration -- not to mention the many more billions for Egypt and Jordan in payment for their peace treaties with Israel -- on urgent needs at home or as genuine humanitarian relief for truly needy countries. Although there is a favorable opinion toward Israel among most of the US population, and tepid public support for Palestinian rights (mostly out of lack of knowledge), those attitudes are gradually changing, especially on a partisan basis. Even before the current trends, opinion polls have long indicated that most Americans prefer a less pro-Israel and more neutral US policy. Bringing these changing public views to bear effectively on political elites -- who are fearful of AIPAC, who are frequently treated to all-paid deluxe propaganda junkets to Israel and who are dependent on Zionist political funds for their election campaigns -- is our task.
Jeff Klein is a retired machinist and local trade-union president active with the anti-war group Dorchester People for Peace and several Palestine solidarity organizations. He is a board member of Massachusetts Peace Action and a leader of its Palestine-Israel Working Group. He is also the statewide coordinator of the NEW DAY initiative to change US Policy on Israel Palestine, which focuses on our elected officials.
Since 2004 Jeff has traveled almost every year to Palestine/Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, most recently, including Syria in 2016. He has many close friends among veteran activists in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. In July 2009 he participated in the Viva Palestina relief convoy to Gaza, organized by British MP George Galloway.
Jeff has spoken many times about the Israel-Palestine issue in schools, churches, community and peace organizations, mosques and has appeared on local and international TV and radio. He has also published articles and op-ed pieces on US policy and Middle East issues.
During the 1980’s Jeff worked in Nicaragua, and later for the exiled African National Congress in Lusaka, Zambia. He lives in Dorchester and has two grown children, one of whom recently spent three months volunteering in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut.