Thursday, May 15, 2008

On Israel, one state of denial:

This week, Bush is in Israel to celebrate Israel’s 60 years of existence and, without irony, America’s 60 years (minus 11 minutes) as its unwavering champion.

How is it consistent with our—or at least Bush’s-- value of promoting liberty throughout the world to support unconditionally the state of Israel, despite human rights abuses as egregious as bulldozing houses, checkpoints and walls to restrict and contain innocent people, the taking and retaking of land, government without representation, 40 years of occupation? I am not immune to the horror that was The Holocaust but isn’t the Palestinians’ Naqba (catastrophe) a similar atrocity?—albeit grinding, relentless and innocuous rather than brief, diabolical and mind-blowing in scale. A religious minority is systematically forced from its land, deprived of basic rights, targeted for all kinds of brutal, invasive and humiliating treatment and killed indiscriminately while the aggressors justify their actions with self-serving illogic.

I don’t see how Bush or anyone else can justify continuing blind support of the Israeli state at all, but this is especially difficult while that very support makes enemies of a great many people in the world-- and rightly so. Some may call Muslims who are desperate and angry about the treatment of the Palestinians fundamentalist crazies. They may decry some Palestinians’ efforts to change the intractable situation in which they find themselves as terrorism. I ask you, is there any other alternative for an oppressed people without a state and an army? What could they do to protect and defend themselves that would be considered legal by the state of Israel and by the world? Further, if our own revolution had not succeeded, wouldn’t the rebels we now call patriots have been labeled terrorists by history?

Once again an American President is claiming he will solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of his term. If it is ever to be resolved, Americans must take off the blinders we wear where Israel is concerned. It is not anti-Semitic to call Israel on its transgressions. In fact, enabling Israel to continue to pursue its policy of oppression is as detrimental to its democracy as our new policy of preemptive war is to ours.

Those who claim to be working to prevent another holocaust are fond of quoting George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I would ask them to step back, look at the plight of the Palestinians, and read those very words again.


Lydia said...

I both agree and disagree.

Honestly, I rarely talk about Israel with anyone outside my family anymore because it's too painful--when Isael attacks Gaza, I can't even read the news. But also, I just find the national discourse about Israel to be ridiculous and, although I favor progressive "leftist" solutions myself, both the right and the left are to blame for turning it into such a joke. for The rightist view's dominance in the media is extremely disturbing to me. Politicians need to pass a litmus test of "support" for Israel--and "support for Israel" means "support for Israel's government and it's actions", a definition which makes as much sense as the definition of patriotism as "support for the American government and its actions." As an American and a Jew, with family in Israel, I love both countries and I hate both governments. I find their actions deplorable, inhumane, and antithetical to the true values of both nations.
What is so frustrating to me is that this definition of support goes so unquestioned, even by venerable or fairly left-leaning publications. The left, as it often does, has ceded control of the terms of the conversation to the right. You need to search far and wide to find representations of the idea that support for Israel means support of a peaceful future of coexistence for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Therefore, the government must be called on its actions. I don't think you can be for one people without being for the other and many Jews and (in my mind) true Israel supporters in this country agree. We are just never heard. I want to scream when I watch CNN on the topic of Israel's sixtieth birthday. I can't wait for it to be over. Ironically, Israel has a much better and freer press than we do here, and these opinions are no secret there; they are regular printed in their mainstream newspapers. It's only in this country that we see Israel (and Judaism) as synonymous with its politicians and slap the label of "anti-semite" on to anybody who criticizes.
The other problem with doing that is that it's crying wolf--there IS anti-semitism involved in this discourse, in some criticism of Israel, and in the opposition to Israel by some of the Arab nations. What the left often forgets is that anti-semitism in the Middle East long pre-dated the establishment of the Israeli state, or even Jewish settlement of that land. Many Middle Eastern nations brutally oppressed their Jewish populations and continued to do so after the establishment of Israel--essentially driving their Jews into Israel while they railed against its existence. As for the Palestinians, they, as refugees, were treated as second-class citizens in countries like Lebanon and Syria and Jordan(check out an excellent memoir by Fawaz Turki called "The Disinherited")_--and all while their governments wept crocodile tears for their Palestinian brothers. The Palestinians were used as a cause celebre by politicians who wanted support and power but the Palestinians were abandoned by everybody in the region--the Israelis and the Arabs. That's why, although I know plenty of people, Muslims or otherwise, who are genuine advocates of the Palestinian cause,honestly, sometimes I do suspect motives until I've really talked to someone. Some of them ARE "fundamentalist crazies" or anti-semites, or just deceived and manipulated by the same kind of power-hungry politicians that also deceive and manipulate Jews into thinking that they must support their actions if they want to prevent a second Holocaust. (I wanted to spit on Bush when he compared Democrats who would engage in diplomacy to Hitler appeasers.) Maybe I'm cynical, I've just heard too much prejudice and ignorance on both sides of this debate. With the amount of thought and education so many people, right or left,seem to put into their views on this conflict, they might as well be choosing between Yankees or Red Sox. It's all about picking sides, dueling nationalisms. I wish it would change.
I guess I basically disapprove of both the Israeli government and a lot of Palestinian organizations. I don't support anyone that engages in violence and I don't think it is ever justified and I don't care if it's an Israeli soldier bulldozing a home, or a Palestinian bomber. There are other solutions even if they are hard. (Remember Ghandi?) I don't care a huge amount about the "what is terrorism" question, because I don't particularly care to distinguish "terrorists" from other people who choose to use violence to achieve their ends. Call it terrorism, war, self-defense, it's all the same to me. And if one thing is pretty clear to me, it is that both the Israelis and the Palestinians would be much better off without the violent militarists they both have acting on their behalf. Most people on both sides are reasonable, peace-loving people who, in my observation after visiting Israel twice, do not have hatred of the other so much as they just have fear for themselves and their futures. Considering the pasts of both the Jews and Palestinians, it is understandable that we would be afraid. I wish we would recognize that bond and fight the real enemy--violent leaders who exploit that vulnerability to perpetuate a miserable war.

jessica said...

you make some interesting points. i am still digesting some of them, but wanted to say i'm glad you're back. i appreciate your passion, and your ease with words.

on a slightly different topic, did you hear about joe biden's candid comments about our shameless leader? i'll link the url to my name. (is there a better way?) there is certainly something to be said for honesty!

soothsayer said...

Hi Lydia,

Good to hear from you!

You are right of course that violence is not an answer to anything. It is very unfortunate that these are the terms of the conflict. I guess I just have compulsion for fairness. If these are the terms, then let's judge actions on both sides by the same standard.

Clearly there's a cycle here that's hard to break-- otherwise this would have been solved long ago. I think you are right that it is not so much hatred as fear. It's in our nature. People who are backed into corners, tend to lash out. More reason for those on either side not to back people into corners.

Like you said we have to work really hard to overcome our nature. We probably have to reach some other plane spiritually like Ghandi or King. It's ironic that two of the world's great religions should push so many so far from that goal.

If only the Jews and the Muslims would forget about the political ramifications of belonging to their faiths in this wretched situation and just live their faiths...

soothsayer said...

Thanks Jessica, glad to be back. Life sometimes intrudes and makes what the Turks refer to as "saving the world" (ranting about society and politics)an extra.

Thank goodness for Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bob Gates and all the voices of reason. Will January 20, 2009 ever come?