Middle East

UFPJ: The Absence of Moral Character

A statement issued by the Free Palestine Alliance

As we join people around the world in mobilizing against the unspeakable atrocities being committed by the Israeli military in Lebanon and Palestine, we are forced to turn our attention to attempts by forces within the U.S. justice movement who have made a habit of condemning the popular resistance of the Arab people.

We feel that this is important due to the continued and unabated attempts to marginalize the voice of those at the receiving end of war. A comprehensive position paper on this matter will be issued shortly addressing language manipulations, political construct, and historical distortions.

On July 18, 2006, during peak wholesale murders at the hands of the Israeli military, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) issued a statement that condemned the popular resistance movement in Lebanon as it equated it with Israeli actions. This was followed by a call on July 19, in which UFPJ not only completely eliminated Palestine (once again) from the political scene, but also escalated its condemnation of the resistance and declared that it was in violation of International Law. UFPJ went further to echo the U.S. administration’s own political constructs, that the Israeli forces should not use a “disproportionate response”—as if a proportionate one exists, and as if the violence of colonists is just a mere “response.”

UFPJ’s statements join the U.S.-proxy regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, in holding the popular resistance movement responsible for the savagery of Zionist colonial conquest—a textbook example of blaming the victim.

Given that the vast majority of the Arab masses support popular Arab resistance movements, condemning this movement from the vantage point of a privileged people is very troubling. However, when such a practice becomes habitual, with reckless disregard to the concerns of the victims, the practice amounts to bigotry.

This outlook from UFPJ is no surprise. UFPJ has consistently and vehemently opposed the inclusion of Palestine in the antiwar movement (and continues to do so every time it has a chance), and demanded the removal of Palestinian flags from the New York stage on March 20, 2004, because, according to UFPJ leadership, these flags invoked images of “terror.” UFPJ’s current leadership rejected opposition to the invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 during a major anti-nuke mobilization in New York’s Central Park while the invasion was taking place.

The UFPJ leadership also raised the slogan “sanctions not war” during the first Gulf War, later back-peddling from what is now best known as a policy of infanticide against Iraqi children. And, of course, UFPJ continues to reject the Palestinian right of return to their original homes and property—all while always claiming to know what is best for the Arab people, and always charging that the Palestinians just have to wait their turn.

The position taken by UFPJ (an increasingly Democratic Party functionary organization) regarding the current Israeli colonial conquest is the same as that of the various Saudi and Gulf-funded Arab organizations in the United States. The collective goal of these organizations is to contain the justice movement in the various community sectors and to divert them as far from effective goals as possible. Their modus operandi is always typical and transparent: to condemn “both sides” so as to appease their fund-providers and political sponsors; to issue some benign call for “peace” (albeit, false and unjust); and to declare that the only way to that pseudo-peace is through a specific wing of the existing power structure.

The UFPJ leadership also lacks basic moral courage. Only two years ago, in Beirut, Lebanon, UFPJ claimed to support the resistance movement in the Arab World, including that of Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine, and joined in opposition to Zionism. Yet, while in the U.S., UFPJ condemns that very same movement and does not dare speak against Zionism, lest they anger UFPJ’s political sponsors.

We wish to remind the leadership of UFPJ that the Arab people are the architects of their own destiny, and no amount of condemnation by UFPJ will move one solitary grain of sand in the Arab march for justice. It is the Arab people who stand clear against the advance of empire for the benefit of all, as the likes of UFPJ stand on the side hurling condemnations. UFPJ’s continuous racist positions towards the Arab people will only enter the history of social movements as a succession of disgrace after disgrace, befitting a so-called leadership sheltered from the world and alienated from its suffering.

The UFPJ leadership must stop peddling the struggle and suffering of our people as an “exciting” commodity to achieve funding and financial support, as that leadership must not think, for a moment, that their manipulations will not be opposed.

We call on the member groups of UFPJ and the social justice movement at large to challenge these self-imposed “leaders,” who appear to be bent on destroying the moral compass of the antiwar movement, and to deny them the opportunity to brand the U.S. peace movement as racist.

Some argue that organizations that stand against U.S. and Israeli policies, such as UFPJ, should be allowed to express a “differing political point of view.” We do not think that continuously insulting the aspiration of the Arab people, through denigrating cherished symbolisms and popular social movements, should be acceptable as a “matter of opinion.” Racism is never a “matter of opinion.” Furthermore, we believe that we would all be doing the movement a great disservice if we collectively allow the process of normalizing racist concepts to remain unchallenged. The examples of these concepts are many, including, a “resisting Arab” is a “terrorist Arab.” As if the Arab people can only be supported if and when they are seen as “helpless victims,” or, better yet, dead.

Since the people of the U.S. suffer from their alienation from the world, the last thing we need is for the movement to also echo that same troubling alienation by mirroring the behavior of empire within.

The Arab people have assumed their responsibilities. The people of the U.S. must do the same, at least within the justice movement.

Free Palestine Alliance, July 20, 2006