SWP attacked at Louisville rally over call to recognize both Israel, Palestine

By Ellen Brickley
June 14, 2021

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When Margaret Trowe, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Louisville, and supporters took part in a “March for Palestine” May 23 organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, they set up a table with campaign literature, books and the statement “For Recognition of a Palestinian State and of Israel” by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes. Walmart co-workers Samir Hazboun, Carol Warren and I campaigned with Trowe.

Many other participants opposed recognition of Israel and some echoed the call by the reactionary Hamas leadership in Gaza for the destruction of Israel.

We engaged in discussions and some civil debates, including on why we oppose the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” campaign. It aims to prevent Israelis — musicians, writers, athletes and others — from speaking on college campuses and elsewhere and calls for the boycott of businesses owned by Jews or that do business in Israel, like Sabra (hummus), Ben & Jerry’s and Coca-Cola.

Soon, two women who said they were organizers told us we couldn’t have the table or the Militant there. The women, who wouldn’t identify themselves, said the media would see the Militant and say that Palestinians are terrorists.

“We explained what the word ‘militant’ means — a term used proudly in the labor movement to describe a person who stands up with others to defend their rights,” Trowe told the Militant. “We said we are part of the movement for a sovereign, contiguous Palestine, and we are for the recognition of Israel.

“We start with the interests of the workers and farmers of the Mideast and worldwide,” Trowe said. “We don’t support the Israeli government or Hamas or Fatah, but we call for them to meet together and negotiate mutual recognition of a Palestinian state and of Israel.”

They told us to move to the corner, which we did. A few people came by, curious after hearing the exchange. One woman bought a Militant subscription and the books Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power and The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning, both by Barnes.

“People who told us to move came back with reinforcements to order us to leave. They said we don’t support the Palestinian struggle,” Trowe said.

“I told them my supporters and I knock on doors in working-class neighborhoods across the region campaigning for a sovereign Palestine with ample territory to make it a viable, contiguous state. We explained why violent and uncivil conduct destroys the possibility of building a working-class movement.”

They kept shouting in our faces. The march was about to start, so we packed up our literature, and got two placards ready that read, “For recognition of a Palestinian state and Israel/Socialist Workers Party/Margaret Trowe for mayor.” Two men grabbed the placards and tore them up.

A Jewish couple in their 20s who were at the rally and march came to talk with us. They had liked our placards. They got a subscription and The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation by Abram Leon. The book explains the origins of Jew-hatred and why the only way to defeat it is for working people to overthrow capitalism and establish their own government in the interests of all the exploited and oppressed.