Tuesday, June 28, 2011

a Jew and a Palestinian speak

This last weekend, I attended a presentation at the local library titled "Israel and Palestine: Where do we go from here?"

Rabbi Brant Rosen of a local synagogue, and Columbia College Professor Iymen Chehade, son of Palestinian parents, spoke to a full room.

Rosen, who has a blog, Shalom Rav is sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. While some might have come expecting each man to give a formal presentation, the program consisted of Chehade giving a talk about the past and present situation of the Palestinians followed by Rosen presenting common Jewish views of it and asking for Chehade's response.

This made a great deal of sense to me because the basic facts of history are undeniable; the Palestinians were robbed of their land and the process continues today. Shout-fests over Israel, which this certainly was not, are always over who has superior rights, not the facts. It is purely a result of propaganda for Israel in the U.S. that so many Americans have the false belief that there are two parties equally responsible for the ongoing problems. The Palestinians are the innocent party and owe nothing to Israel. Israel owes very much to the Palestinians but will never acknowledge it.

Chehade spoke eloquently and covered a wide range of issues in a short time without going into the kind of detail that would lose an audience. It seemed to me that, but for a few, he had the sympathy of his listeners, certainly he had mine, having learned what I have about the issues in the past few years. He did not exaggerate. There was no need because the tragic facts are persuasive. The only time I thought that he went beyond reasonable expectation for the future was his comment that he thought the destroyed Arab towns within what is now Israel, could be rebuilt. The best to hope for is that Palestinians would have the same right as any Israel to live on the site of any of those erased towns.

I had composed a question (we submitted them written on cards) before the program began. I asked how anyone could believe a two-state solution is still possible. Surely the only solution to the problem is one Israel that is not a Jewish state but a true democracy open to the Palestinians on an equal basis with Jews. I didn't submit my question because Chehade clearly agreed.

Rabbi Rosen was there to allow Chehade full expression by throwing him questions, he was not there to promote Zionism.

Rosen made a comment that for Jews, the connection with Israel is more than just one of religion. I can't tell you what his thinking was behind this statement, but as I sat there I wondered if he meant there is some kind of innate spiritual connection.

If so, I can't buy it as any kind of rationale for keeping all but Jews out of the land that Israel sits on. I don't think he believes it either, hence his activism for change, though he did not specifically rule out two states.

Here is my reasoning. There is no connection of any people to any land anywhere on the planet that is not purely the result of the upbringing that plants this idea of a connection in the mind alone or along with the effect of living in a familiar place over a period of years. When people speak of thousands of generations conferring some kind of legitimacy to land that is not where a person was actually raised, it means nothing beyond this continual re-planting in innocent and immature minds of the same indoctrinating story. No child of Jews has an innate connection with Israel unless he/she is born and raised there. If not, it is purely the result of learning. There is nothing, absolutely nothing innate in any human being connecting him/her with any land from birth, no matter how many generations have been there before.

Rosen hinted at this problem when he expressed disquiet at the right of American born Jews to go to Israel and immediately claim Palestinian land. But, really, this has been the problem of Zionism since the first advocates left Europe for Palestine.

This to me is the ultimate injustice of Israel - that it was Europeans who had been born and raised (and tragically rejected) in Europe who had the idea that they had some inherited connection to Zion other than that they had been taught so - who believed this mythological connection took priority over the real, born in the land residents of their imagined home. I may be wrong, but I believe the driving group behind Zionism did not believe in any spiritual link, they only wanted a place for Jews to live securely and thought that the mythological link would sell their plan to many Jews but mostly to third parties heavily invested with Bible stories. It worked.

Certainly anyone can take a liking to anywhere on earth for any reason whatsoever and have a wish to move there. Jews had been going to Palestine, to Jerusalem in particular, long before Zionism without problem, as they should have been able to do. The problem came with the assumption that Palestine was exclusively for Jews. It leaves me astounded that anyone could think this just, either as recompense for the Holocaust or simply because a book of mythology is cited.

The Zionist idea has become a monster that can't stop itself, not surprisingly for any scheme based on privilege for one group and rigid exclusion of others. How can anyone believe this madness has a future? Was it well intentioned? How could that be possible when the suffering of others was not only expected but pursued with vigor?

I see an increasingly extremist Israel running the whole project onto the rocks on its own terms, with religious fanatics coming to challenge each other on who is truly Jewish. This has been slowly coming to a boil for some time.

That so little attention by Israel's leaders is paid to this while so much is paid to what to do about the all but impotent HAMAS along with sabre rattling at Iran staggers me. What do you do when a friend shows ever greater signs of mental illness? If you are the US Congress under the control of the Israel lobby you wildly cheer and support each ever more outrageous act.

It will not end well.

I was encouraged that so many people showed up to hear the professor and the rabbi, but I firmly believe the U.S. is out of the picture and will never exert any pressure to save Israel from itself. I hope for action from other countries and the continued courageous non-violent actions of the Palestinians themselves. I think Israel at some point is going to commit an atrocity that the world will find so repulsive that Jews outside of Israel will gag and the Zionist program will collapse, thoroughly discredited.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

why boycott divest and sanction?

Yaniv Reich has an interesting post on his blog about the need for a cultural boycott of Israel and how too many Israelis were removed from and heedless of what their country was doing. I was prompted to comment about the whole idea of cutting off Israel as follows...

A Chicago area folk singer (long gone) named Steve Goodman wrote a wonderful ditty with the lyrics “It’s not hard to get along with somebody else’s troubles, and they don’t make you lose any sleep at night. Just as long as someone’s out there bursting somebody else’s bubbles, everything’s gonna be alright”

but it’s deeper than that.

America got away with exactly the same project Israel is working on. We put the redskins on the run and settled the whole darn continent and there was no “world public opinion” to say boo about it, heck many were on boats coming over to join the land grab! Perfect timing. Are modern Americans tossing in their sleep about Native-Americans drowning in alcoholism and despair? No, we pulled it off beautifully. Is there anyone today more proud and self-satisfied with stainless national pride than the American? Just ask one to find out.

But Israel is a peanut of a country surrounded by the displaced and far, far too late to the nationalism party which made the 20th century pretty much hell outside of North America. Zionists definitely caught the disease but with their eyes on the prize ignored the lessons learned by others all around them. So we are seeing the whole sorry progression on display again with, of all things, the mighty savior of Europe providing full funding and weaponry to run the movie again (because of Zionist money and influence blindly pushing it to do so in the supposed best interest of Israel!!!).

If the Jew, the ultimate victim, can come to be the Ubermensch, and revel in it as much as any who played that part in the past, can there be any further proof that anti-Semitism, along with all bigotry is absurd – that we are all the same kind of animal?

The irony of Israel is that the project to protect a people because they were different and therefor subject to abuse by nations turns out to demonstrate they are no different and once equipped with a state of their own are downright eager to try some serious abusing for themselves.

We’re seeing the same rise of fanaticism, the same arrogance of power, the degradation of the other to the status of non-human, the obsession with purity of race/religion, the elevation of the Mythos unconnected to fact, the absolute refusal to be judged by any standard but one’s own…only now this is played out by the world’s most heavily armed peanut performing for an audience of billions.

Can we doubt where this will end? The only real debate outside Israel/U.S. is about what reel of the movie we are viewing, I suspect it is the last. Israel shows us that a “race” can be created out of thin air from the most diverse group of people but the result of power disconnected from responsibility is the same. Israelis will come to the same humiliating dead end as have others before them.

All the rest of the world can do is try to pull the plug, difficult only because the USA is running full bore to run more power lines, my U.S. senator Mark Kirk one of the chief electricians.

Boycott, divest, sanction, fill the Mediterranean with flotillas, all ideas are welcome and should be explored to head off the collapse toward which Israel speeds with determination.

Monday, June 20, 2011

hasbara incoming

I received an email from a friend with "What if Jews had followed the Palestinian Path" attached, an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal that self-righteously lauds the up-from-the-bottom course of European Jewry after WWII in contrast to the Palestinians living on the dole in camps at UN expense. I held back my inclination to gag and responded with the following...

Have you watched Canada Park, the CBC production? No. You don't deal with the present reality and aren't interested in it. You prefer to dwell on events of the middle 20th century than the current eviction process of El Arakib in the Negev where Bedouin who are actually Israeli citizens have been continually thrown off their land to make room for yet another "re-forestry" project of the Jewish National Fund. There are many videos of this - a current event - but you aren't interested, it's just more Arabs making a fuss.

This article you sent is yet another self-congratulatory piece of hasbara that sentimentally dwells on history instead of looking at the current situation in which Israel is coming to resemble the states that expelled the Jews in the past.

The holocaust was a terrible thing. So was and is Zionism - a deliberate plan to evict people and replace them. Both are human rights catastrophes, only the latter continues right now and the United States (alone) with your full approval makes it possible.

No matter how many times I tell you, you don't get the fact that a free people, American Jews, who live in complete safety and with full legal protections - can, at this very moment, decide they want to be Israeli without giving up their American citizenship, move to Palestine and within a month be stealing land from the indigenous people. This is both history and current events. Armed settlers, many of them with dual American citizenship burn Palestinian olive trees and take their property on almost any given day.

Golda Meir, pictured in your article, famously said "there are no Palestinians". She was a Russian. She talked a lot about the "Third Kingdom of Israel" not seeing the people who have been there all along. Avigdor Lieberman, the current foreign minister of Israel is also a Russian and he, too, wants Arabs out of their own land.

Any Israeli can become a citizen of the U.S. without prejudice to their nationality if they apply to do so, but Israel absolutely refuses to allow Palestinians to become citizens of Israel. Those Arabs who are citizens are encouraged to leave. Their representation in the Knesset is strictly limited. Yet, as Moshe Dayan said, every inch of what is Israel was once Palestinian land. Instead of dwelling on the Holocaust that took place in Europe, check out old still photos and movies of Palestine, definitely not an empty land waiting for Europeans to take it.

Most amazing to me about your position is you live in a country that allows everyone to be a citizen, yet you fully support a country that is for one group only. You are content to see others suffer denial of residency and rights that you would never accept for yourself, nor, I hope, would you accept for any group of people in the United States.

Google three words "Canada Park CBC" it's a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. production. You won't do it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Netanyahu's poodle, Mark Kirk

Senator Kirk - I recently saw a picture showing you shaking the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

As you know, America has traditionally stood for the rule of law. Israel has routinely flouted the law, specializes in extra-judicial targeted killings (over 850 so far) and, thanks to the United States veto in the UN, does as it pleases regardless of international law.

As you also know, America is now lowering itself to the same lawlessness - our President is now allowed to order the execution of Americans overseas. The woeful influence of Israeli lawlessness is now bringing this country down to the same level.

When you grin and shake hands with an outlaw you show your approval of a country that has killed Americans starting back in 1967 with the attack on the USS Liberty and continuing through the killing of American Rachel Corrie to last years execution of Turkish-American Furkan Dorgan aboard the Mavi Marmara. Not to mention the thousands of Palestinians who know no law but that of the Israeli "Defense" Forces and continue to suffer the theft of their land that is the history of Israel.

When you fondly associate with PM Netanyahu you make me ashamed to be from Illinois and revolted by the fact that you represent me in a body that should stand for the rule of law. I am disgusted by the picture of you and your pal, whose wishes clearly come first for you in your work in the Senate.

Tony Blair was called "Bush's poodle". You are in the same relationship to PM Netanyahu and are apparently proud of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

courage in a small package

The Israeli human rights NGO, B'Tselem, has produced a series of short videos called East Jerusalem Diaries.

Of these, the one I'd like you to watch is about Israeli activist Sara Benninga, 28. When you reach the page showing the six diaries, Sara's is in the middle on the bottom row.

Sara is a strong supporter of the rights of the Palestinians, but what hit me hardest in her account of her life is the fact that she lives in the old stone house of Palestinians who were evicted. She shares a lunch in this house with her father and he speaks the English of the American he is, a man who came from a society offering freedom to take up residence in a house stolen from those who today do not enjoy even the basic right of due process of law. The hypocrisy floored me but it's just one case of many such in Israel.

As an American, it is this gross injustice of my free countrymen having the ability to use that freedom to displace others in a distant land, leaving them homeless, that speaks most powerfully of the fact that the Palestinians are not seen as deserving of the most basic rights - that they can be displaced as easily and thoughtlessly as one might move a herd of sheep from a place one desires.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

the insightful Ambassador Freeman

I've mentioned the work of former Ambassador Charles Freeman before when he wrote of the fallacy of Israel being a strategic ally for the United States.

He has recently presented a trenchant lecture that is available for viewing below (or reading, transcript is beneath the video here).

Some outstanding excerpts:

...the spiritual descendants of Jews who left Palestine assert a religious duty to dispossess the biological descendants of those who chose to remain.

Ironically, Israel - conceived as a refuge and guarantee against European anti-Semitism - has become the sole conceivable stimulus to its revival and globalization. Demonstrably, Israel has been bad for the Palestinians. It is turning out also to be bad for the Jews.

A people without rights confronts a settler movement without scruples. A predatory state with cutting-edge military technology battles kids with stones and resistance fighters with belts of nails and explosives.

The United States is now so closely identified with the Jewish state that Americans cannot escape perceived complicity with any and all of its actions, whether we agree or disagree with them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lifta - Israel wants to erase it, too

In Israel's war of independence, over 400 Palestinian towns were taken, most have been destroyed since as is the case with the three that are mentioned in my posting about Canada Park.

Lifta is a former Palestinian town near Jerusalem that still has many buildings intact. Palestinians are not to go there. The British newspaper The Guardian has published a sympathetic account with an excellent video.

Of the history of Lifta, The Guardian says (italics mine) -

The remains of the village are bounded by roads, along which traffic rumbles to and from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem's suburbs and settlements. On the ridge above Lifta, concrete mixers and diggers are at work on a high-speed rail link to Tel Aviv; deep in the valley below is a guarded complex, said to be the site of the Israeli government's underground nuclear bunker. Out of sight of Lifta's ruins, but built on its former farmlands are the Knesset (Israel's parliament), the supreme court, the Hadassah hospital, the Hebrew University and the city's central bus station.

In 1948, the village owned 1,200 hectares but they have long gone, along with olive, fig, apricot, almond, plum, pomegranate and citrus trees plus the fields of spinach, cauliflower, peas and beans that gave Lifta its prosperity. "Life was rich," recalls Odeh. "The spring watered the village gardens. We had more olives than we needed so we sold them and the oil in Jerusalem."

Now, Israel wants to bulldoze Lifta and replace it with a 212 unit development. The people who lived there are opposed, but of course they have no say.