Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just My Opinion

Who am I to even have an opinion? There are others who live closer to the pain and have far more knowledge and experience than I who would disagree with me. But, I have an opinion and it is this: I see little hope for a two state solution in Israel/Palestine. With the domination of the wall, settlements and division of water, I am not optimistic about the chances for the survival of an independent Palestinian state. Taking into account the religious fundamentalists who now occupy those settlements because they believe “God” wants them to fight for “their” land, and given their history and theology, these zealots for Zionism will resort to terrorist attacks to bring down a young and vulnerable Palestinian state.

The only hope for Israel to survive, in my opinion, is to annex the West Bank and Gaza and become a nation for all its citizens. Of course, then Israel would no longer have a Jewish majority with a Jewish government giving preferential treatment to a Jewish citizenship. However, it would survive and share in the benefits of a democracy.

Israel needs to survive. That’s not just an opinion, it’s more like a moral declaration. There are generations of people living there who have never known any home but Israel. It would be immoral to take from innocent children their security and state just because of the irresponsible leadership of their government. Kids are innocent and should not have to suffer because of the ambitions of grown-ups. So, again, I say, Israel must survive.

Yet, I am growing more and more skeptical as to its survival possibilities. Their government is in the hands of Nazi-like racists. Nearly a century ago, the leaders in Germany tried this “chosen race” stuff. Believing that God or nature had set up Germans as a unique and superior race, the Nazis set out to establish their own nationalism.

Norman Finkelstein writes about it.

Romantic nationalists argued that more profound bonds both “naturally united certain individuals” and “naturally” excluded others. Ideally, they concluded, each such organically connected community ought to be endowed with an independent state… Jews constituted an “alien” presence amidst states belonging to other, numerically preponderant, nationalities. Anti-Semitism was the natural impulse of an organic whole “infected” by a “foreign body (or too obtrusive a “foreign” body.[i]

Sound familiar? Yet, history rejected the Nazi ideology in Germany and
will reject it again in Israel.

Even a controlled media will not be able to convince the people of America that trapping a civilian population into one of the most crowded regions on earth while massacring 1400 people should not qualify as a crime against humanity. In spite of locking the Gazans in and locking international reporters out, the word escaped. Americans cannot avoid hearing stories of Israel’s cutting off the life line of food, water, medicines and electricity without thinking: something is out of whack…and it not working.

The likes of Netanyahu and Lieberman must learn that warfare has changed. You can’t defeat a rebellious people with bombs and tanks. Every time you kill or torture one person, others will take his place filled with even more hatred and dedication to vengeance. Having the fourth largest army on the globe will not control the determination of an oppressed people seeking their freedom. Violence only generates more violence.

In spite of those standing up in pulpits and appearing to speak with some God authority, even the least informed will begin to realize that the theology promoting such atrocities comes from a “book,” written by Jews, to Jews, and on the behalf of Jews only. It seems a questionable theology at best.

Sooner or later, those Christian Zionists who justify injustice in the name of Jesus are going to stumble. History and scholarship are going to catch up with them. In spite of the powerful influence of evangelical television, more Christians are going to realize that killing, brutalizing and stealing from another people is wrong. And sooner or later, the world is going to take steps to stop it.

It is insane to think that a little nation of 7.4 million, of which 20 percent are Arabs, can continue to humiliate a billion Muslims and expect their support and partnership in such things as trade, health and environmental security, all of which are necessary ingredients to survive in today’s world.

By far, the most serious threat to the survival of Israel is the economic decline of the United States. Americans give over six billion dollars a year to Israel. Considering the financial crisis we are facing, such an enormous hand out will become more and more questionable. It is my opinion that before long we will have a significant number of US citizens beginning to challenge the rationale of sending money to lift the living standard of Israel while we have Americans sleeping under bridges and going without medical care.

In short, I don’t think Israel can survive on its current course. The time for a “chosen and privileged people” claiming God given rights over others is dying. That world no longer exist. There is no room on this shrinking planet for a racist, theocratic state.

Thus, my opinion, for what it’s worth: The only way forward is for Israel/Palestine to become one democratic nation for all its citizens. Neither state can survive on its present path, nor should it have to.

Thomas Are
May 12, 2009

[i] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, (Verso, New York, 2003) p. 8.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Seeking Balance

One of the best resources I know for keeping up to date on what is happening in the Middle East is a monthly magazine, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Every month, informed journalists and free lancers report on what’s happening on the ground. Rachelle Marshall alone is worth the cost of the subscription. However, this month, I was captivated by a letter to the editor in which the writer complained about the lack of “balance.” “Why do you keep publishing, month after month, the same anti-Israel article? Only the author’s names seem to change. ..Wouldn’t it be refreshing to publish one article presenting Israel’s point of view?” He recommended Dershowitz.

His challenge struck me because I also hear that same complaint. “Tom, you see everything in the Palestinian conflict through the lens of Israeli atrocities.” Or, “You seem to see Israel as all wrong and Palestinians as always right.” Or, “I wouldn’t criticize Tom Friedman. People really like him.” And, “You need to lighten up.”

While trying to formulate my own response to such concerns, The Washington Report said it better than I ever could. After thanking the reader for his letter, the editor writes:

Perhaps we don’t mention often enough the names of the many Israelis we admire – Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery, Linda Breyer, among others – as well as the fact that debate on the issue that concerns us is much more open and robust there, as exemplified by the fine publication Haaretz. Were the debate as open here, we could count on the main stream media (MSM) to do more than tout the Israeli line. Since they don’t, we try to provide “balance” by covering stories that the MSM refuses to touch (such as the Israel lobby, which we reported in Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Washington Report, published 27 years ago). And most recently, for example, The Washington Post failed to cover several local demonstrations – one in front of its very door—against Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Ultimately, what we and many others find unacceptable is the ideology upon which the state of Israel is based: that only Jews have a right to live there. We don’t see “another side” to racism or to genocide. Nor do we recall similarly “balanced” stories about apartheid South Africa, genocide in Rwanda, or Nazi Germany during World War II. Would you have demanded that Goebbels be asked to provide “balance”?

I would add such voices as that of Noam Chomsky, Marc Ellis, Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel, Robert Simon of 60 Minutes and Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, all courageous souls who in spite of ridicule and public pressure are trying to be faithful to the moral fiber of their Jewish tradition.

Concerning the Israel/Palestinian conflict, Americans are ignorant. It is not their fault. Americans are good people and would stand up for doing what is right if they only knew. But when the media, the pulpit and politicians of all parties choose to keep silent about what they undoubtedly know, the average American has little incentive to “go against the stream". That’s why I so appreciate such publications as the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It only cost $29 a year.

Thomas Are
May 4, 2009