“At the risk of being accused of anti-Semitism” should never have to precede any comment having to do with the state of Israel or Israeli actions and policies. In my own critique of Israeli foreign policy, I have been accused of anti-Semitism. Then again, even Americans who critique Republican foreign policy under Bush were accused of being anti-God and anti-Christian.
So much for should not.
And how the hell are we going to talk honestly and in any meaningful way about Gaza if we can’t get shed of ideology and religion? Do the facts on the ground matter everywhere but in Israel?
National Socialist Germany and Adolf Hitler, acting on and expanding upon ancient Christian anti-Jewish prejudice, bequeathed to us a new world, one in which Jews are all too readily perceived of as the victims, and not as the perpetrators. We hear a lot about anti-Semitism, not only modern but ancient, while ignoring the fact that the Old Testament, or Jewish Bible, is one long anti-Gentile/Pagan polemic.
Yes, anti-Gentilism is a real thing too, made manifest today in the Religious Right’s anti-Paganism. So let’s toss all the religion crap aside, if we can.
Easier said than done. The mainstream media is all too ready to buy into the dominant religion’s biases regarding who is persecuting whom. The mainstream media, as any liberal knows, is about as far from being a liberal media elite as can be imagined.
Noam Chomsky and others are challenging that media bias, and “call on journalists around the world working for corporate media outlets to refuse to be instruments of this systematic policy of disguise. We call on citizens to inform themselves through independent media, and to voice their conscience by whichever means is accessible to them.”
But then, conservatives have been controlling our national narrative for half a century now and liberals have meekly bowed their heads and tolerated the abuse, not only of liberalism itself, but of the true nature of our shared reality.
As a result, it is as though, for conservatives at least, and some liberals (including President Barack Obama), Israel can do no wrong. Nobody wants to be accused of opposing Israel. Nobody. It is a political sentence of death.
So while Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense seems more like a plan to turn Gaza into a pillar of ash, many Americans are presented with the image of tiny Palestine with its 1.7 million people as the aggressor and Israel, a powerhouse by comparison, with its 7.9 million, as the victim.
It beggars the imagination. Gaza, with its 40 percent unemployment rate, is part prison camp and part garbage dump. And as Nadia Hijab writes on CNN, “there is ample evidence to show that Israel is largely responsible for truce breakdowns.”
America’s portrayal of Israel and Palestine is patently ridiculous. We have never extended such favoritism to even our oldest and truest allies, France and Britain. We can criticize them to our heart’s content. France saved us from Britain during the American Revolution. Yes, we can say we repaid that debt in the First World War, but the abuse we heaped upon France during Bush’s presidency was shocking.
All because France would not bend over and let Bush sodomize them. We should have applauded them, and named everything French, rather than changing French Fries into Freedom Fries.
Which brings me back to nation states and the second part of my problem: Israel is not “the Jews.” Yes, Israel is something like 75 percent Jewish, but America, with a similar percentage of Christians, has never been seen as “the Christians” except in fundamentalist self-image.
Israel is not a religion but a nation state. We cannot equate Israel with the Jews any more than we can equate the media with the Jews (note to Rupert Murdoch).
Our president is unfortunately bound by the new reality as well. He must – or at least he feels he must, which is nearly the same thing – be careful what he says about Israel for fear of offending Jewish supporters, who also have a difficult time separating the idea of a religion from a country.
For many Americans, thanks to the mainstream media and also to our president, the Israelis are the victims in Gaza.
But Gaza is full of Muslim Palestinians. They kind of have no place to go. Gaza is what some would term a “target-rich environment” for Israeli bombers.
And they do tend to use it for target practice with appalling regularity. The Israeli airforce partcularly enjoys literally flattening sports in Gaza. The target, says Dave Zirin at the Nation, is hope itself.
Truth is, there are victims on both sides. Perpetrators and victims on both sides. Good and bad on both sides. Both sides shoot at each other and kill each other.
But you would not know that from what President Obama said the other day.
In a statement made while in Thailand on November 18, President Obama said,
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me start with Gaza. Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles; they were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated. And there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.
But the truth is, the Israelis bomb Gaza and Palestinians shoot missiles into Israel.
Apparently, only Israel has a right to defend itself – not the Palestinians.
Where do the facts on the ground come into play, if at all, when the policy of the United States government is that the Palestinians are the bad guys, and Israel is the good guys?
To an extent, the situation in Gaza reminds me of the situation obtaining on the American frontier in the 19th century. Palestinians, say Hamas, just want to be left alone – no blockade and no attacks. Israel says Hamas must stop all missile attacks. But Hamas doesn’t control what everyone does in Gaza on their side of the fence. Just like Native American chiefs did not control everyone on their side.
And the result is the same. Everyone on the smaller side is held accountable for the actions of a few – collective guilt. All Palestinians end up being punished no matter what. But at the same time as asserting these ridiculous expectations of Hamas, Israel refuses to recognize Palestine as a country.
Don’t expect any of this to make sense.
And the only reason Israel is able to do what it is doing right now, is that the United States permits it. It somehow, apparently, suits our purposes to have Israel pounding Gaza into dust. What purpose, I cannot imagine. But it does not benefit anyone to have the Middle East enveloped in these levels of conflict. Noam Chomsky, writing on AlterNet, calls America and Israel “the greatest threats to peace.”
What is troubling is that his premise is not easily argued away. I have long argued that it is none of our business to decide who can have enriched uranium and who cannot – Iran included.
A Pax Americana that is coerced is no peace at all. President Obama should have learned this from the example of George W. Bush’s presidency.
It cannot have escape anyone’s notice that the Middle East is the 21st century’s Balkans. You all remember the “Balkan Powder Keg” and what happened when it went off in 1914. Conservatives love the idea of blowing it up today because they think Jesus will pop out of the ashes and fallout and inaugurate the Kingdom of Heaven.
We can only hope that President Obama finds a way – and a will – to negotiate the troubled waters of religion and ideology to a meaningful solution to violence in Palestine. War benefits no one and peace benefits all. But we won’t find peace as long as our leaders wear blinkers – our President most of all. Only belatedly did he sent Secretary of State Clinton to the Middle East to negotiate a ceasefire. A delay in which many innocent people died.
In an attack that could have been launched without our countr’s tacit consent.
And what does she say when she gets there?
“President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message. America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.”
Let’s take those blinkers off. This is not about Jew and Muslim and Christian. This is about Israel and Palestine and every surrounding country that has a stake in peace in the region. Only when we realize that, and act on that realization, will we find a way toward peace.
The buck stops here, folks. Right on our doorstep.