Progressive Except for Palestine (PEP) – A REAL Progressive Response

Amongst those on the Hard Left, there is a term that people use to disparage Liberal, or Progressive Zionists. They call us PEP – Progressive Except for Palestine. These folks on the Hard Left (and the Hard Rightists that pose as Hard Leftists) often like to whine about how we in the Zionist Movement that still support the principles of Labor Zionism, and the founders of the Haganah / Yishuv, claim that this support is disingenuous because we support an Israel with the ability to maintain itself as the National Homeland and State of the Jewish people. No matter that we support a viable Two State Solution, No matter that we support equal civil rights for Arab Citizens of Israel, No matter that we support women’s rights, or the rights of the LGBT community, or the rights of women to pray at the Wall, or the rights of women, children and others to live in a nation and a world free of bigotry and oppression. They maintain only that because we don’t support the rights of the Palestinians to deny the legitimate right of self determination of the Jewish people, that somehow we are raging Right Wingers.


We are seeing this emerging again and again lately, within the extreme Left and stoked by those on the bigoted Right who merely see a number of useful idiots on the Left to further their own anti-Semitic goals (think Jewish Voice for Peace or Tikkun). More and more lately we see it in the hateful and bigoted BDS and Campus Divestment Movements, where straight out anti-Semites and their useful idiot friends try to paint Jewish and Pro-Zionist liberals into a corner of being members of the Conservative Lunatic Fringe and thus discrediting them with younger more liberal leaning students.

Well I say it is time to strike back (metaphorically).

Last year, on my site The Progressive Zionist, contributor Michael, wrote an excellent piece that I would like to point out titled: “Progressive Except for Palestine”. The piece itself is a year old but given the increased tempo of the hatred spewed forth by the hard Right and their useful idiots on the Hard Left. His piece hits the proverbial “nail on the head” when he says:

“The underlying assumption, of course, is that there is only one acceptable Progressive position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and they conveniently happen to hold it. The rather unsubtle implication is that the rest of the Progressive movement is a churning heap of reactionary neanderthals in sore need of enlightenment, to bring us more in line with their views on the subject. Which, coincidentally, is The Most Important Political Issue™ of recorded history, characterized by barbarism on a scale humanity has never seen. The Sack of Rome? Peanuts, and probably a Zionist conspiracy avant la lettre to boot…..


….I would imagine that Progressive values include honesty. That, unfortunately, is not something commonly in evidence in said movement. If you want to argue the destruction of the state of Israel, fine. That is, obviously, a morally abhorrent goal, but it’s a free country, and people can hold whatever vacuous or cruel views they please. The problem is, of course, that they never admit – except by accident – that this, the end of the Jewish state, is indeed the goal. Call them what they are, anti-Israel, and watch the hackles rise and the outraged sputtering begin. It is, after all, only about the poor Palestinians, groaning under the uniquely heavy Israeli yoke, and their inalienable rights.


Except that it’s not. Leaving aside the fact that there could have been a Palestinian state since 1947, had it not been for that awkward lost war, I’d warrant that the people who really sincerely care about their rights in the Western movement concerned with them are in a minority, vastly outnumbered by, to give the baby a name, people who happen to hate Jews. If it were otherwise, they’d expend some time on, say, the intolerable conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon, or even on the continued existence of these camps. But they don’t, because there is no injustice worth debating unless it can be blamed on the Jews.” (my emphasis)

And as we have seen lately this last sentence perfectly describes the BDS and Campus Pro-Divestment movement to a “T”.

I think that as Progressives or Liberals we need to go up to these people and ask them exactly what is Progressive about the Palestinian cause. In what way does this cause represent any progressive values? As a proud progressive and supporter of President Obama here in the U.S. and as a supporter of the Israeli Center – Left, I would like to know exactly what is “progressive” about ANYTHING around the Palestinian cause.

I would (and do) ask them the following:

  1. Is it “Progressive” to deny the Jewish people their legitimate rights to self determination after over 2,000 years of oppression?
  1. Is it “Progressive” to support the creation of a Palestinian State that would be run by Holocaust deniers and those who feel that Jews have no place in their society?
  1. Is it “Progressive” to go against the Democracy that is Israel where an overwhelming majority) of over 80% of the population support Zionist goals of maintaining Israel as the Jewish State?
  1. Is it “Progressive” to support a polity that voted for Hamas in the last election, a party which has the elimination of the Jewish people encoded in it’s charter, and just hosted notorious anti-Semitic Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi (a man who said: “this land has never once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation.”)?
  1. Is it “Progressive” to support a polity that routinely engages in oppression of women, has children that train for “jihad”, and that routinely engages in suppression of journalists?

I ask them if they are aware that in their “pipe dream” that is a One State Solution – a concept of “Palestine” that is similar to America in terms of equal rights and secular democracy that only 29.3% of the Palestinian people support this actual vision and that NEITHER of the two main political parties (Hamas and Fateh who would get over 80% of the popular vote) support that principle.

Usually at this point, these “Pro-Palestinian” activists don’t answer and descend into a “Well… the Israelis do….”, screed. They simply have nothing, nothing to hang their hats on (so to speak).

It goes deeper than that even. Many “Pro-Palestinian” advocates here (the U.S) and in the world in general will talk in lofty terms of an earth that is like the 24th century utopia portrayed in Star Trek. But they don’t deal in realities and when pressed will say… “Well it’ll be oppressive at first but then it’ll get better or we will fight for it to get better”. When it’s pointed out that the Jewish people will suffer, one hears, “Hey, that’s just what has to happen so that maybe, one day we MIGHT get to a State where there MIGHT be equality for Jews”.  Now, does that sound “progressive” at all?

The fact of the matter is that these people (the BDS supporters and those that support Campus Divestment) are the ones who are generally PEP. They are all for supporting the rights of millions of “oppressed” people here in the U.S., but when it comes to supporting progressive values in the Middle East or anywhere else around the world for that matter, these people are either silent or complicit, particularly when those they support claim to have an “anti-War” or “anti-Imperialist” / anti – U.S. agenda (which I note most of those claiming that mantle are neither “anti-War” nor “anti-Imperialist”).

Now this is not to say that our side does not have its own issues. There is a great deal of hypocrisy and bigotry amongst our Right wing as well. No one is excusing that. BUT those people are a minority in our polity. They support the very worst of our instincts and while they claim to try to take on the mantle of “liberal” their actions and support reflect nothing of a sort.

The difference here is that while yes… we have our bigots and cranks, and we do have to a better job at isolating them, the Palestinian Polity is primarily made up of bigoted, reactionary forces and that no progressive in their right mind should support them.

What real progressives need to do is stand for the legitimate rights of both peoples to their own homelands. They need to insist that both the Israeli AND Palestinian polities (not just the Israeli polity) adhere to basic western constructs of human rights. More than that, they cannot claim to be progressive on one hand and stand against progressive values regarding one half of this conflict.

More than that, progressives have to stop dealing in the “Meta” of this situation and have to more focus on the realities that confront them. To be “Progressive” means to support a realistic outcome that will bring the most “progress” to either side. Will a Palestinian State run by either Fateh or Hamas (the majority will) represent a “progressive” solution? No. It won’t.  Does a Jewish State run by the Hard Right and disenfranchising 25% of it’s population represent a progressive solution? No it doesn’t.

If there is any side that a “Progressive” should take it is with the Zionists who understand that the Jewish People have a legitimate right to self determination in part of the ancestral lands that were once held by the Jewish people. It is the Labor / Liberal / Progressive Zionists that are the real “Progressives” here, not the Hard Right/Left bigots who pretend to be progressive but who really are motivated by hatred of everything Western and anything Jewish.

About the Author
Jon Segall is creator of the blog The Progressive Zionist. Jon has lived in Israel and studied Israeli and American Policy in the region. Currently Jon, is re-learning Hebrew, and is an active practitioner of the Israel Self Defense Martial Art Krav Maga.