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To Fight Global Fascism, We Must Confront Zionism

To stand with Palestine is to transform our genocidal global systems and build a different world.

Protest in support of Palestine in Krakow, Poland, on March 23, 2024.

The Israeli and U.S.-funded genocide of Palestinians has catalyzed a moment of global reckoning. This moment is an echo of 2020 when the racial justice uprisings following George Floyd’s murder offered a moment of reckoning in the United States.

The horror that Palestinians are enduring is beyond comprehension. As the world witnesses the genocide in Gaza unfolding in real-time on social media, many of us who are watching are saying — there is no coming back from this. The experiment of the Israeli state is over. Israel is showing the world that Zionism is an undistilled form of Western imperialism that requires this level of slaughter to maintain itself.

Police murdering Black people with impunity was not new or unique within the U.S., nor is Israel’s intentional destruction and ethnic cleansing new or unique to Palestine. Genocide is fundamental to how the West holds power, and the brutal strategy is repeated, seen and unseen all over the world.

The war on Palestine opens a stark faultline where more people see what many people around the world have always known: the power systems that dominate our daily lives — capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism — require immense violence and brutality to keep going. People who have survived and continue to live through the worst of the West’s imperialist projects to displace people, steal land, and control populations know this. They stand with Palestine because they know these systems, and their struggles for liberation are connected. The current genocide in Gaza is exposing these truths to multitudes, who may or may not have experienced colonialism. In order to dismantle and transform these violent systems, we need strong social movements.

There Is a Rift

In this moment, after 75 years of brutal occupation, Zionism is showing the world what is necessary to continue its project: complete annihilation of the Palestinian people. The Zionist system requires white supremacy, direct violence, and monetary and political support from the United States. In this moment, we are all implicated, and there is a rift and an opportunity in that. People of conscience, particularly those of us in the United States have a dual responsibility: to do everything we can to stop the genocide and to develop a longer-term strategy that contends with the most fundamental questions of the U.S. state, capitalism, Zionism, and rising fascism. The truth is we cannot do one without the other.

Every moment in history includes particular details that create different opportunities. In this moment, opportunities surface that could advance a clear vision and pathway to either fundamental liberation, as we call for a Free Palestine in the streets, or the systems could fall towards a more consolidated and insidious control of public and social life in every state on the planet. Both are already playing out, whether we recognize it or not.

A key to charting our course forward is studying our own history. There have been other rifts, other opportunities for global solidarity and action. 9/11 in 2001 was such a rift. It was not the beginning or end of empire, but the U.S. and its allies used that moment to launch two wars — one on Iraq and one called the War on Terror, a permanent war that has morphed to justify imperial attacks all over the world, domestic surveillance in the U.S, and a legal and social framework informed by Zionism and Zionist racism against Palestinians.

We protested then. Over 10 million people in 600 cities demonstrated on February 15, 2003. These unprecedented global protests were coordinated and instigated by a call from thousands of people at the Social Movement Assembly at the second World Social Forum in Brazil. People understood that there was a rift and a danger, and we acted to prevent an imperial war for control of land and resources justified by a lie of U.S. victimhood.

More recent history includes the rift of 2020. A public health crisis compounded by white supremacist violence that showed itself in an eight-minute video of George Floyd’s murder. That moment catalyzed months of uprisings all across the United States. Young people were brave, beautiful, creative, and powerful, calling out the whole system of racism and brutality. We named the horror of police murders while also naming the purpose and function of police to protect capital. Many demanded the elimination of a system designed to incarcerate and brutalize people, particularly Black people. But there was not a full reckoning. We opened up the ground, but we were not able to undermine the state and stop police murders that continue to happen on a daily basis.

Today, we are witnessing another, potentially deeper rift.

October 7 exposed not only Israel and Zionism but the Western colonial imperialist project as a whole. The rift is a recognition that countries like the U.S. and UK’s continued efforts to exploit, control, oppress, and occupy many parts of the world, from Africa to Asia to South America, are linked and require a genocidal, authoritarian fascism to continue. Zionism, often misunderstood as a religious framework, is actually a colonial, legal, and social framework that asserts Israel’s right to exist at the expense of the Palestinian people and their land. Massive numbers have mobilized in streets around the world in the last five months in response to the Israeli attacks as movements have mobilized in support of Palestine since 1948. But the forces aligned with Zionism and fascism are also exploiting this moment and using it to expand the police state in direct response to the movement energy that is on the rise.

We are, again, protesting and mobilizing and disrupting and refusing to be a part of this brutal slaughter, misnamed as a conflict. We understand that this situation is a continuation of colonial genocide for control of land and resources rooted in the lie of Israeli victimhood. We are naming the role of the U.S., misnamed as “complicity,” and understand that Israel requires direct and unconditional support from the U.S. to continue its bombardment. At the same time, we are recognizing the power of global solidarity as we witness South Africa’s bold charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

Civil society is splitting along lines made more explicit by Israel’s genocidal war. In North Ireland, Palestinian flags are still flying in Catholic neighborhoods, and Israeli flags fly beside the British as signs of clear allegiance – occupied standing with occupied, occupier with occupier. In the U.S. South, we see good old boys flying the Israeli and Confederate flags side by side on their trucks, making a clear connection between white supremacy and Zionism. At the same time, an Atlanta Black church dedicated their Christmas Eve service to Palestine, their pastor wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf. In a profound act of solidarity and humanity, thousands of Black pastors signed a letter demanding a ceasefire and challenging the Biden administration.

For the last 166 days, people have resisted in the millions across every border, race, and language. There is an opportunity for U.S. social movements to go big and go global. Not only is Israel’s war being challenged by hundreds of non-Western nations and previously colonized peoples, but the United States and the entire arrangement of Western imperial and colonial power are being directly confronted. As Tony Karon explained in The Nation in January: “Standing up for Palestine has become shorthand for that global struggle to change how the world is ruled.”

The forces standing with Palestine are potential global allies to a stronger U.S social movement, and if we are going to contend with impending fascism, we have to move beyond protest towards more strategic action that dismantles Zionism, truly aligns with Palestinian and global liberation movements, and crafts a powerful position to counter and rearrange the established order.

We Are at a Crossroads

In the wake of the racial justice uprisings of 2020, organizers asked similar questions that we ask in this moment. Abolition of police and prisons surfaced more widely as a strategic framework because of the decades of groundwork laid by organizers and strategists who refused to compromise or find a liberal stopgap out of the fundamental crisis of state violence. Similar to contending with the entrenched reality of Israeli occupation, the work to abolish prison systems and police is not a reformist endeavor. Social control mechanisms are embedded in all parts of the current power arrangement in Israel and in the U.S. Like one of the abolition movement leaders, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, says, “Abolition requires that we change one thing: everything.”

Within an abolitionist framework, contending with the inherent violence and social control of the state requires completely abolishing systems of prisons, police, and surveillance. Though there are tactical reforms that relieve conditions, the primary strategy of abolition is to end that system and build something else. Similarly, there is no reformist alternative to Zionism as a tool of Western power. And the corporate and political actors within empire know it: “This is not a small issue. From my perspective it’s not just about Israel,” the CEO of Palantir, Alexander Karp, told a reporter on March 14: “Do you believe in the West? Do you believe that the West has created a superior way of living. Are you willing to admit you believe that?”

Contending with Zionism requires a break with empire. In short: there is nothing we can do about Israel, other than everything.

The opportunity within this moment is to develop a sharper strategy that activates the millions of people who see the faultlines and feel the rift.

Zionism Is a Unifying Force Opening Pathways for Fascism

Israel is a fascist state, and its relentless genocide is blasting open more pathways for global fascism to establish itself. A growing number of fundamentalists and authoritarians entrenched in white supremacy and Islamophobia have been setting course across the globe over the last few years. Most recently, Argentina voted in a Trump-like right-wing president in November 2023 who is a strong supporter of Israel, pushing a Zionist agenda, waving the Israeli flag at his rallies in October, and making Israel one of his first trips as president. In January, as Israel continued its bombardment of Gaza, India’s fundamentalist authoritarian Modi celebrated the Hindu temple on the razed grounds of the Ayodhya mosque in January, and Italy’s government passed laws to protect public expressions of fascism. Senegal’s president postponed elections, jailed movement leaders, and sparked massive protests. These moves point towards a growing fascist consolidation. Israel’s attacks are emboldened, not just in Gaza but in the military and social violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. The U.S.’s brutal attacks on Yemen in response to their economic blockades in defense of Palestinians show what the empire is willing to do to protect itself, even in the face of global condemnation.

The conditions are set for Zionism to fuel fascism on a global level and prevent social movements from rising in the United States. Zionism and anti-Palestinian racism have been fundamental to the “war on terror” that started 20 years ago when 9/11 was used as a pretext for permanent war. The U.S. created legal and social frameworks of “terrorism” to undermine global resistance and to counter dissent, public speech, and organizing in the United States. Zionism and the War on Terror have been tools used to protect capital and also to attack resistance and liberation movements, particularly those led by Black, Palestinian, Muslim, and immigrant communities. Globally, the U.S. uses the threat of “terrorism” to expand military outposts in every corner of the world, and here, the FBI uses expanded surveillance to track Black anti-police protesters, and Zionism becomes a tool to turn protest into terrorism.

Zionism Fuels State Repression in the US

Zionism is a perfect vehicle for the expansion of the police state in the United States. Both liberals and the extreme right in the United States are using Zionism to advance a strategy that expands a social base for fascism, deepens control of public institutions, and sets the stage for consolidation at the federal level, protected by the police state with support from financial institutions, media, and higher education. Today, legislation weaponizing the definition of antisemitism to equate it with anti-Zionism and stifle pro-Palestinian actions is passing with bipartisan support. These attacks allow increased constriction of public discourse and dissent, which will be legislated at school board, university, city, state, and federal levels.

Beyond the explicit attacks against Palestinians and Palestine supporters in the U.S., Zionism is also being used to roll back any of the gains made from racial and social justice movements over the last decade. In 2020, during the racial justice uprisings, the national conversation about race and police was forced into a broader arena. Some workplaces, universities, and organizations were pressured to institute training or make concessionary changes in the form of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs. That small gain (and weak response) to structural and institutional racism in the U.S. has been undone in a larger offensive right-wing play to control public discourse and education. The rightwing’s first hit in this era was K-12 social studies and U.S. history classes, using “Critical Race Theory” as the weapon. As students and teachers challenge Zionism in this moment, the same Manhattan Institute operators like Chris Rufo are weaponizing Zionism to undo DEI and basic structural and constitutional protections throughout higher education systems, taking down Black leadership as they do it.

The university’s answer to the challenge of systemic racism is looking more and more like intimidation and censorship. The state’s answer to systemic racism and growing economic distress in the U.S. is police expansions like Cop City combined with new forms of state repression, which also has ties to Zionism.

Last summer, thousands of people in Atlanta organized to stop Cop City, a $100 million police training facility set to be built on public land and a fragile ecosystem. The decision to build Cop City was a direct response to the racial justice uprisings in 2020. A way for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to “boost the morale” of a police force that was being challenged for murder, brutality, and aggression that kills Black people without consequences. Community organizations like Project South and many others, engaged people on every block in our neighborhood, and there was very little confusion as to why the city of Atlanta had decided to build the largest urban warfare training compound in the country. Organizers provided additional information about who was paying for it — mostly us, with our public taxes. We informed people that Home Depot, Wells Fargo, and other corporations were putting up the other millions through the Atlanta Police Foundation. We asked — Why do you think that the banks are funding a police training center that includes bombing facilities and fake apartment buildings to practice raids in our neighborhoods? They answered — Well, they’re preparing for something. Sounds like they’re preparing for martial law.

Beyond the direct brutality of the police, the boundaries of state repression are being tested in many Southern political spheres, and they are using Zionism and the current rift to do it. In Georgia, we are witnessing the unique consolidation of a Republican supermajority at the state level and a predominantly Black Democratic Atlanta City Council working in lockstep to expand the police state. During this legislative session, the state is passing multiple laws to criminalize protest while the city uses public funds to build Cop City. On January 22, as the Atlanta city council voted again to shut down a legitimate referendum process to put Cop City on the ballot, the Republican congress, in session not even a block away, passed a bill that redefines antisemitism to criminalize protest against Zionism and dropped a bill to expand RICO laws to criminalize actions based on political affiliation and belief. The same body is hoping to expand the definition of “terrorism” to include basic forms of protest.

When these laws go into effect — in addition to the anti-trans laws, anti-abortion laws, and cash bail laws being passed across the South and the U.S. — they will harm real people and reduce an already decimated public infrastructure for health, education, and survival to a minimal thread.

We are witnessing a consolidation of the ruling liberal and conservative ideologies within U.S. power against the backdrop of Zionism. That consolidation represents a threat as global fascism rises, but it also creates an opportunity for social movements to challenge the whole setup. What if our U.S.-based movements aligned more strategically with the global upswell for Palestine?

Palestine Is a Call for Fundamental Transformation

The Palestinian struggle against Zionism reflects a challenge to the Western world order. The Palestinians are located at a particular nexus of colonialism and imperialism fueled by the guilt of the Western world in the 20th century and distilled by white supremacy and compounded by Islamophobia in a post 9-11 21st century world. To be in alignment with Palestine directly implicates and upends that arrangement.

World nations are splitting along this rift and frontline: one set of mostly Western nations in line with the U.S. supporting and funding genocide and the other challenging Israel, Zionism, and Western empire and standing in solidarity with Palestine. Brazil recalled its ambassador to Israel in the last few weeks after President Lula called out Israel’s genocide at the African Union Summit. Bolivia severed diplomatic relations with Israel early in October, and Chile and Colombia recalled their ambassadors and criticized Israel’s actions as war crimes, crimes against humanity. South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice was rooted in a broader history and analysis of their own apartheid regime and the global solidarity that supported its end. Global social movements from Congo to Senegal to Kenya to New Zealand to Ireland are connecting Palestinian freedom and the end to Israeli occupation to a broader call for liberation.

The decades-long history of U.S.-based movement in solidarity with Palestine creates the conditions for more meaningful possibilities in this moment, exemplified by the overwhelming numbers of people showing up in the streets, walking out of schools, disrupting political and business gatherings, and divesting from Israeli products. Historic movements like SNCC in the U.S. South in the 1960s to the newer generation of indigenous social movements and Black liberation movements recognize the significance of the Palestinian resistance to Zionism and Western power.

Social movements in the U.S. have a responsibility to deepen people’s understanding of our collective stake in Palestinian liberation in the context of all people’s liberation. There is an opportunity to connect the resistance to a broader power analysis because of the unique position of Palestine and our unique position within the United States. Nylah Burton, a young Black journalist, writes that “bearing witness to Israel’s genocide in Palestine has changed people forever” and is leading to a generation of people rejecting the West as a whole.

We could lose that opportunity if we do not connect people to meaningful long-term actions. Many in the U.S. are new to this fight, coming to consciousness at a moment when multiple crises are compounding in catastrophic ways on every level: ecological, economic, and social. What might be possible if we organized that base beyond mobilizations?

Additionally, we will have to build more creative strategies and sets of tactics to contend with the 2024 elections. The hundreds of thousands of protest votes of “uncommitted” is a show of force and politicizes our refusal to accept the binary of the terrible and not as terrible. But we will have to work hard and strategically to make that count and build a stronger position after the elections, no matter what happens. The Democrats look set to lose in a moment when it is also becoming more and more clear to more and more people that no one is truly safer if they win.

We Are Up Against a Global Order, What If We Acted Like It?

Israel cannot be reformed. Genocide is required to continue the Zionist project. Fundamental transformation of the system is necessary to stop it. That will require more than protest.

Global social movements and the Palestinian liberation movement will determine their courses of action based on their specific sets of conditions and visions. This moment requires the strategic and active solidarity of U.S.-based movements, and we need to recognize our position. Israel’s strength is unique in the world because of its proximity and total reliance on the United States. What is our unique leverage?

We absolutely need convergences of public resistance where hundreds of thousands of people gather in DC, Houston, Chicago, and Atlanta. We need demonstrations where we see ourselves as agents of power in a time of intimidation. Our ability to organize to shut down bridges in New York City, ports in Oakland, and freeways in Chicago, Durham, San Francisco, and many small towns shows us that we are not alone and demonstrates our disgust and resistance from within the center of the empire. But mass mobilizations, though they show us our numbers, our courage, and our connections, are not sufficient to counter what is happening.

In the U.S., we have a responsibility to sharpen our tactics in line with bigger global strategies and in opposition to the simultaneous rise of the police state. Zionism is being used to fuel the expansion of the police state in the United States through pushing state repression and anti-protest laws. Is there a strategic defense to the rise of fascism in the U.S. that also divests from Zionism on a global scale?

Let’s expose the players who are invested in a growing police state, let’s reveal and dismantle the global deadly police exchange programs like the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) that trains U.S. police in Israel. Let’s shut down Atlanta’s video surveillance system, which is one of the largest in the world, using Israeli technology and connect that work to challenging laws that turn our protests into felonies. Let’s dismantle the Cop Cities of this country with an eye toward building a powerful social movement with a clear-eyed view of the stakes and analysis of how local, regional, national, and global systems operate.

There is an incredible opportunity to turn the eyes of the U.S. to the imperial and occupation projects in Haiti, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and at our own borders. Our actions should connect to existing decolonization movements like Landback and Indigenous movements in the U.S. and Canada to Puerto Rico, Hawai’i and beyond. We have an opportunity to see ourselves in a broader context of the past decades of resistance that got us to this moment and the current reality of compounded crises across many global fields. We need to build out our base by inviting people into generative processes to learn, prepare, and take action within a coordinated plan.

What if every Free Palestine protest, city council ordinance, and freeway block was coordinated to a broader divestment strategy? What if a broad campaign to end Israeli occupation was connected to protecting public space and defeating the expansion of using RICO laws to intimidate organizers?

Public space is being eroded, and Zionism is the tool that is speeding it up. Universities are once again sites of struggle where students are criminalized and targeted by violence, and faculty are fired or intimidated from teaching history. Let’s mobilize our numbers to hold and assert our authority in public space through families and children calling for ceasefire with kite flights, ignoring flag bans on soccer matches, and organizing across university spaces to challenge and re-arrange the structures that suppress freedom of speech, thought, and learning.

We need more than static town halls, we need ongoing assemblies where community members analyze the situations we face and make decisions about how to protect our schools, neighborhoods, and organizations. Let’s build social movements rooted in our history and driven by a younger generation that is showing itself to be rigorous, brave, and forward looking.

We Are Not Just Protesters. We Are Building a Different World.

We have an opportunity to reimagine a future of how the world works. Millions have mobilized over these past five months to demonstrate a tremendous expression of dissent to this current genocide for control of land and resources justified by the lie of Israeli victimhood, a parallel of the lie of U.S. victimhood after 9/11. And just like in 2003, when our massive, global protests did not prevent the Iraq war, our massive, global protests are not stopping this genocide. To be effective in engaging this moment, we need to connect our mass mobilizations to organizing infrastructure that can contend for power.

To be clear, the public expression of dissent and being able to see our own power in our numbers is necessary and significant. We just have to be more strategic. And we have to be more intentionally global.

There is a rift. This call to action and strategy is a hopeful intervention to come up with better moves. To build stronger, faster and more sustained movement actions informed by the larger context and our long-term vision. Let us be smart, which means seeing the path behind us and the 20, 30 years of brave resistance that led to this moment. And let us see 20, 30 years ahead, so that we imagine beyond the 2024 elections and toward our own liberation.

Let’s build up U.S. social movement forces in order to align with global movements. Let’s follow the leadership of people in the Palestinian Youth Movement and Black young people who have been sharpening their practices for the last ten years in the streets. Let the courage of Rachel Corrie in 2013, the woman in Atlanta who set herself on fire wrapped in a Palestinian flag, and the blazing death of Aaron Bushnell, an Air Force man from San Antonio calling for a Free Palestine, embolden us to take bigger risks.

Let us assemble and decide to do more that connects our solutions to the actual threat, to the fundamental arrangement of Western empire and the fascist forces rising to protect it. Let us see our path in alignment with the rest of the globe. With those who are already fighting these repressions and horrors. Let us hear the call that Mohammed El Kurd in his recent article “Are we indeed all Palestinians?” implores us to contend with: What are the pretenses that absolve us from participating in history? . . . Because Gaza cannot fight the empire on its own.

Let us use our leverage to stop this death march. Let’s show ourselves who we are, what we really want, and what we’re willing to do to get it.

This is about rearranging the world. It’s our only way through.

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