Asking Women's March organizer the wrong question

Women’s March National Co-Chair Tamika Mallory speaking in New York, April 22, 2017. (Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Hulu via JTA)

Women’s March National Co-Chair Tamika Mallory speaking in New York, April 22, 2017. (Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Hulu via JTA)

by Kathryn Shihadah

Part of a Times of Israel article:

Women’s March co-leader Tamika Mallory refused to answer a question on Israel’s right to exist in an interview with PBS due to be broadcast Sunday.

The interview comes ahead of protests due to take place on Saturday across the US, although many local chapters of the movement have said they are no longer willing to be affiliated with the national group over claims it has not done enough to disavow anti-Semitism.

The co-president of the @womensmarch refuses to affirm Israel’s right to exist— saying “everyone has a right to exist...I just don’t feel that everyone has a right to exist at the disposal of another group."

Hoover stayed on the theme, however, and things became tense.

“Does that include Israel and Israelis?” she asked.

“I’m done talking about this,” Mallory responded.

“I just don’t think it requires scholarly knowledge to say that Israel has the right to exist,” Hoover said.


Tamika Mallory is not displaying anti-Semitism by dodging a question - she’s refusing to enter an oversimplified dialogue about a complex subject.

When Israel partisans ask this question - Does Israel have the right to exist? - and demand a simple Yes or No answer, it’s a Catch-22. Mallory was right in refusing to answer.

If she had answered Yes, that implies support for the State that is insupportable in its present state, plain and simple. If she had answered No, she’s anti-Semitic because Israel self-identifies as the Jewish State.

No middle ground, no nuance is allowed. The question is loaded.

Do Jewish people have the right to live in safety? YES. Does that right overshadow other people’s right to live in safety? NO.

My friend Jay pointed out a variation of the question: “Did Germany have a right to exist - in 1945, as a Nazi State? NO, of course not.”

Does Israel have the right to exist - as an apartheid state that takes the land, rights, and lives of others? NO, of course not.

Well, that’s the state that it is right now. If it became a true democracy with equal rights for all, we could have a whole new conversation.

Israeli soldiers detain a  Palestinian boy  during clashes in West Bank. Credit: Reuters

Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during clashes in West Bank. Credit: Reuters

PS We know that Israel does indeed exist, whether in its present condition it has that right or not.

Here’s the question we need to ask: Does Palestine have the right to exist? Palestinians are fighting for that right every day. They look at the US and see that the Native American population has dwindled to a handful of impoverished villages, eking out an existence on reservations, or losing their identity in American cities.

Palestinians fully realize that In a generation or two, they will be the next Native Americans: they will be either living in reservations (see map below) inside de facto Israel, or getting lost somewhere in diaspora. Palestinians as a people will live on, but without Palestine, they will be a mere shadow.

That’s why Palestinians struggle against their occupier, Israel. That’s why Palestine’s advocates press the issue, as they did in the Women’s March. Existence is resistance.

Margaret Hoover said, “I just don’t think it requires scholarly knowledge to say that Israel has the right to exist.”

It doesn’t require scholarly knowledge to realize that Palestine is dying - at the hands of Israel - and Palestinians don’t deserve that. Palestine has the right to exist.

Let’s ask some new questions and have a complex dialogue.

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