For years, I’ve tried to stay out of any dialogue about the Middle East mostly because, from what I can see, there has been no dialogue–only an extended monologue.
Since my college days, I have endorsed a free, and autonomous, Palestine, and have descried the second-class treatment of Muslims within Israel. I have openly, and publicly, deplored Israel’s attack on Beirut, and the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza.
But, let me be clear. To condemn the actions of a nation is not the same as condemning that nation. I am outraged by the invasion, occupation, and plundering of Iraq, and would be equally outraged by the suggestion that my antipathy for the occupation makes me “unpatriotic.” Just as it doesn’t make me un-American, or unpatriotic, to speak out against the actions of my country, it doesn’t make those who speak out against Israeli military exploits anti-Israeli, or anti-Semitic.
Having said that, there comes a time to cry foul. There comes a time, at the risk of calumny, to speak out against an obdurate, and deliberate, confusion between Israelis and Jews, Zionists and Israeli citizens, and this seems as good a time as any in light of Israel’s 60th anniversary.
Recently, I read a comment to an article about the presidential race that appears on a Web site whose primary audience is American expatriates. While the article primarily lamented the loss of candidates Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, the person posting the comment, Anna, took advantage of an opportunity to blast Israel, and the U.S., for what she calls the AIPAC Congress, and giving any support to Israel since its inception sixty years ago. Anna suggests that if any nation should have been helping Israel, after World War II, it should have been Great Britain.
What dear Anna neglects to mention is that the U.S. gained more, after the war, from trade with Nazi war criminals than they ever gave to the Jewish state. What she also neglects to do is connect the dots, and tell how a race for the presidency relates to the Jewish lobby, specifically, not inferentially. Indeed, the devil is not so much in the details as in the implications.
Moreover, apart from the egregiousness of trading with our declared enemies, which is hardly news after Iran-Contra, and given who’s been arming the Taliban in Pakistan, what is most horrifying is how, increasingly, many are using any chance they get to lash out at Israel, and the so-called Jewish lobby. It’s as if there were some vast Jewish conspiracy to control the capital, big business, and Congress which all sounds eerily familiar.
Nowadays, anyone who remembers the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, 40 years ago, that “anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so” risks being labelled an “Israel apologist.” Clearly, a lot has changed over nearly half a century, given that Israel is only slightly more than half a century old. Dr. King could not have foreseen the “my country right or wrong” mentality that has taken hold of the Jewish state or, for that matter, of the United States, and that it would one day be possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic.
Still, those who speak out against Israeli militarism, in this country, often seem to have difficulty distinguishing between nationality and religion, and think that to be Jewish and to be a Zionist are one and the same. So, it turns out, that not much has changed over the past 40 years, in this regard, after all, and that Rev. King was right to smell the rotten hands of racists at work.
Arguably, to be anti-Semitic means to despise not only Jews, but Muslims, too, as Jews and Muslims are both of the Semitic race. Is it acceptable, then, for any presumptive president of the United States to put “Islam” in the same breath as “fascism” without being labelled anti-Semitic?
So, to the Annas out there, I say only: what a shame, what a crime, that the U.S. wasted one tax dollar on Israel, and allowed ourselves to be blinded by the AIPAC Congress which, as you know, has been ruled by AIPAC since this country was founded back in the 1700’s, or so you’d have us think. To hear you tell it, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were members of AIPAC, too, as well as those daughters of the American Revolution who committed genocide against native Americans.
Indeed, and to those who say that the Israelis should give up the occupied land, give the territory back to the Palestinians to whom it rightly belongs, and go live on some quiet pogrom in eastern Europe, I say—everyone in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Los Angeles, and all over the country should start packing, so we, too, can give back the land we stole to the native Americans to whom it rightly belongs.
Try telling that to George Bush, or George Washington. Oh, and most of all, we wouldn’t want to tell Sen. McCain that some of our founding fathers were deists, or even Jews; we wouldn’t want him to think this is anything other than what he calls a “Christian nation.”
To those who think AIPAC, that boasts of being 100,000 strong, has taken control of the planet—it’s not too late to repair the damage. With your help, we may yet be able to build a detention center, in Miami, adjacent to the one for undocumented immigrants, where we can fit AIPAC, as well as throw in some of their Israel sympathizers—maybe even a few pesky members of Congress. Whaddya think? Well, it worked for the Japanese, and now Hispanics; why not the Israel lobby, too?
Look, that Joe Lieberman, once a Democrat, is now a McCain lackey and a member of the “Bomb Iran” choir, is a disgrace, but do we want to blame that on the Jewish lobby? Does racial profiling extend to Jews, too? Do we really want to lump Bush, McCain and Lieberman together as Zionists, even if they claim to be fighting Islamofascism?
Just as it’s wrong to attack those who express philosophical differences with Israeli foreign policy (being polite here) as being “anti-Semites,” it’s wrong to equate those who defend the right of the Jewish state to exist as being “Zionists.”
To all the Annas out there, wake up, and do the math—Jews comprise only a quarter of 1% of the world’s population. Anyone who thinks Jews are that powerful needs to go back and take Basic Arithmetic 101.
It’s true that a small percentage of a population can control most of a country’s wealth, as is the case in our country, but instead of focusing on the oil barons, and the war contractors, our nouveau Left is using the Israel lobby for target practice.
How, may I ask, is this any different from the policies of George W. Bush who demolished Baghdad, ousted Saddam Hussein, a country that had nothing to do with the attack on the World Trade Center? Fascism comes in many flavors, but make no mistake—regardless of how it tastes, it’s still fascism, folks.
What’s more, anyone who thinks that an organization that hosts a grassroots membership that consists of about as many folks as attended Obama’s rally in Portland the other day needs to sleep with both eyes open.
As we must work, and work hard, to affirm the right of the Palestinians, and the Lebanese, to sovereignty, and self-determination, we must accept the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East. Just as it was appropriate for former President Jimmy Carter to meet with Hamas, and to acknowledge the second-class citizenship of Arabs in the occupied territories, it is right for Barack Obama to be willing to talk with Iranian leader Ahmadinejad. Behind every flag is a human being, and human beings don’t deserve to be desecrated, either. It is right, too, for America to talk openly about the status of Muslims as second-class citizens within Israel.
Leadership whose default position is search and destroy, raid and attack, the politics of pre-emption, has already taken the planet to the verge of collapse. Those who confuse pre-emptive with pro-active are those who deliberately blur the boundaries between chaos and civilization.
Make no mistake. It is those who look for scapegoats, not solutions, that are the problem; they always were, and they still are. It is the height of naivete to think that peace can ever be accomplished through warfare, or that the role of commander-in-chief involves knowing how best to deploy the military. To the contrary, the most effective leader is one who knows how to avert the military option through diplomacy, and discourse.
As for the presidential race, the candidate who is most capable of seeing the world not in black and white, but in shades of gray, ironically, just happens to be a black man—Barack Obama. The only one who has dared to address the plague of hate, and race, is not Ron Paul, not Dennis Kucinich, not Ralph Nader, but Barack Obama.
But, who wants to elect someone capable of seeing things in more than one dimension at a time? Instead, folks like Anna prefer a “progressive” version of George W. Bush whose jihad isn’t against Radical Islam, or “Islamofascists,” but AIPAC instead.
After all, why would we want to elect someone who, like Hannah Arendt, thinks that “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom?,” someone who recognizes that bombs and discourse just don’t mix; someone who courts steelworkers and not members of the National Rifle Association?
Those who, through dedicated oversimplification, mistake target practice for toubleshooting, and feel that their overfed insecurities are at heightened risk from pesky minorities, whether they be Jews, African-Americans, or Mexicans, may yet live to see a Final Solution, in the form of nuclear holocaust, for they are putting us on the fast track to the apocalypse.