Category: Palestine

Broad brush

 Anti-Semite.  My, my, my, but aren’t we quick these days to paint someone as an anti-Semite?!  As in “Charley Reese is an anti-Semite” because he dares suggest Israel’s manifest influence on foreign policy may not be in America’s best interest.  As in “Charley Reese is an anti-Semite” because he reminds us of the inconvenient truth, despite systematic efforts by the Israeli government to revision its own history, that Jewish immigrants to Palestine terrorized Arab natives into fleeing for their lives.  As in “Charley Reese is an anti-Semite” because he has the audacity to compare Israel’s brutish behavior towards Palestinians and neighboring countries with those even more brutal and genocidal European tyrannies that Jews insist (rightly) we must never forget.

And it’s not just Charley Reese.  Any person, no matter how honorable or credentialed, who speaks out against injustice or criminality or unwarranted influence by foreign powers is subject to being labeled an anti-Semite.  Jimmy Carter, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Norman Finkelstein, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappe, Joel Kovel, David Noble, Tony Judt, Amira Hass, and Greg Felton are just a few who have been painted with the broad brush of anti-Semitism.

Hell hath no fury like Israel scorned.  Last year a delegation of German bishops visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and then crossed through the high concrete wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian “territories.”  One bishop compared photographs of the Warsaw Ghetto to “Ghetto Ramallah.”  Another who had lived through Nazi and then Communist occupations said “something like this is done to animals, not to human beings…  I never in my life thought to see something like this again.”

Reaction to the bishops was swift.  The Anti-Defamation League called on the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference to repudiate the remarks.  The Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli Embassy lectured the bishops on their “alarming lack of knowledge about history.”  Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, wrote that they were seeking “to lessen European responsibility for Nazi crimes.”  Within days, Cardinal Karl Lehmann (Germany’s top cardinal) was forced to censure his bishops by writing that it was inappropriate to “connect contemporary problems or situations of injustice in any way with the National Socialists’ genocide of the Jews.”

 Anti-Semite.  That ugly word was thrown into the fray as well.  In an opinion piece for Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, correspondent Eldad Beck said the bishops’ comments raised the question of “just how tainted with anti-Semitism… the Catholic church and German society remained.”  What the bishops saw first-hand, and what they tried to tell the world, was successfully obscured in a frenzy of name-calling.  And so it is now with Charley Reese.  With precious few exceptions, the current propensity for calling an individual an anti-Semite is an ad hominem attack, an age-old cheap trick that diverts our attention from the merits of what is being argued by casting doubt on the character and motivations of whoever is making the argument.

 At least in public, we Americans are conditioned to recoil with horror at racial and sexual epithets.  However, despite an ongoing campaign to cleanse our verbal landscape of all offensive, derogatory language, we seem to have overlooked the word anti-Semite.  Why?  Is it because it’s such an effective weapon in Israel’s powerful arsenal, trotted out every time someone tries to tell the truth?  What exactly is it that warrants calling Charley Reese an anti-Semite?  What is it that leads (or qualifies) you to believe that he has “a Jewish obsession?”  And just what is he writing that so urges you to recommend that this newspaper “would do well” to quit printing his opinions?  Welcome to Hot Springs!  May the truth that was denied you in Clarksburg, Roanoke, and High Point set you free here.

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The shoah must go on…

 On Friday, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai threatened a “shoah” on Gaza in response to qassam rocket fire directed at Ashkelon. “Shoah” is a Hebrew term for “big disaster” and is often used to describe the Holocaust. Vilnai’s comment to Israeli Army Radio (according to a CNIF bulletin):

“The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, [the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”

 The Independent has it slightly different:

 “As the rocket fire grows, and the range increases – and they haven’t yet said the last word on this – they are bringing upon themselves a greater Shoah because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground.”


 Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Israeli and American celebrities rallied this week at a benefit concert in Los Angeles for the “rocket-weary people of Sderot.”  The participants included movie stars Sylvester Stallone, Jon Voight and Valerie Harper, comedian Larry Miller and Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb.  Teenagers from Sderot were flown over for the concert in a bid to highlight their daily suffering. (note the obligatory video appearances by ALL of the major candidates)


 Today’s NYT:  “More than 60 Palestinians have died since fighting surged on Wednesday; one Israeli died in Sderot from a rocket, and five Israelis were wounded on Saturday from rocket strikes in Ashkelon.”

 Today’s Independent:  “[Israeli] Government spokesmen launched an immediate damage limitation exercise saying that Mr Vilnai was merely using the word to mean “disaster” and not in any way intending to convey the idea of genocide. But Shoah is rarely used in modern Hebrew parlance for events other than the Holocaust.”


 Wonder how many Hollywood galas there have been lately for “rocket-weary” Palestinians in Gaza?

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Plethoric pandering

 I had hoped, in part because he seemed like a nice-enough guy, that Mike Huckabee would not descend to the level of pandering epitomized by the other Republican candidates.  There were warning signs last fall, when he revealed he was getting up to speed on Middle East issues by reading books written by far-right messianic Fundamentalists.  Then he started hanging out with some really strange cats like John Hagee, a megachurch evangelist who routinely advocates military strikes on Iran, denies that Palestine or Palestinians ever existed, and is doing his damnedest to expedite his rabid fantasies about Armageddon.  Just a hunch, but I don’t think Hagee’s face-to-face with Jesus is going to go so well…

 The last straw that broke this curmudgeon’s back was Huckabee’s opinion piece in today’s Jerusalem Post.  It is titled “We must defeat Islamofascism” and is little more than a litany of platitudes, a last-stand pandering to Jewish and Christian(ist?) voters he is betting have been conditioned to reject the uncomfortable nuances of their gray realities.  A few weeks ago, his opponents were berating Huckabee for suggesting that our lame-duck emperor is perhaps scantily clothed (if not naked).  Now, in this piece, he is a born-again firebrand for every foolishness ever perpetrated by George Bush.  The way he parrots made-up words like “Islamofascism” makes me wonder if Rudy Giuliani sucked the real Huckabee out of his skin and crawled inside.  Here are a few foul-smelling nuggets from today’s article:

 “Those who don’t understand that the war in Iraq is a critical part of the war on terror, don’t get it.”

 “…I share Israel’s concern about an aggressive unchecked Iran. And I share Israel’s determination that Iran will not become a nuclear power. As president, I will not take the military option off the table.”

“As president, I will ensure that Israel always has the state-of-the-art weaponry and technology she needs. And in addition, I will dramatically increase American defense spending. Before there can be true peace, there must be the basic recognition of Israel’s right to exist and an end to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel lies and propaganda.” or

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Breaking the Silence

 Yehuda Shaul is live on C-Span now.  He’s a former IDF commander and co-founder of Breaking the Silence.  He’s showing slides and talking about the systematic degradation of Palestinians by the IDF.  Very interesting and hopefully helpful.  The follow-up questions seem to indicate a friendly/sympathetic audience, but I missed a few minutes (and just noticed a lot of empty seats)…

It just ended.  Here’s a link for more info on the presentation (the video isn’t available as of this writing):

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To an Israeli friend

 I like Barak more for what his election would say to the world and about us as Americans, than for his positions or his personality.  I think Arun Ghandi stated something similar.  I have seen Mrs. Bill Clinton (really, that’s her only credential, isn’t it?) operate for many years, and am unimpressed.  The victimized female act wears thin after a while.  Many people here in Arkansas remember her as a snob (we moved here after Bill became President).  There are some folks, still infatuated with her husband, who will vote for her on that basis alone.  In fact, that’s probably the bedrock of her support, especially among the Hollywood crowd.  That, and hardcore feminists.

The front-runners on the Republican side are all warmongers.  Hillary voted with them and is now struggling, just like Kerry did four years ago, to both defend and explain away her decision.  For me, that leaves Barak as the only remaining choice.  He said it well yesterday when he said that we need to do more than prevent wars, we need to change the mindset that leads to wars.

I’m curious.  Why did you feel it necessary to go to such lengths to dissuade me from supporting Obama?  Sometimes, I think your impressions of reality are distorted by the prism of Jewishness through which you gaze out upon the world.  That is not meant as a criticism but an explanation as to why I take some of your comments with a grain of salt.  I understand the innate vigilance and suspicion that generations of persecution (and worse) have instilled in Jews.  It’s part and parcel of why you never assimilated and at the same time part of why you are such visible targets.  In this case, something (and my suspicion is it’s your Jewishness) has prejudiced (and I think distorted) your views of a “young” black man with a middle name of Hussein.

Israelis seem terrified of Obama.  And the thing they’re most terrified of is that, sooner or later, Americans will begin treating all parties in the Middle East fairly.  A president with an international outlook, who represents to the world that America has moved beyond its legacy of slavery and inequality, who represents to the world that America is retreating from its image of a militarily aggressive empire, is the exact symbol of what Israel fears most.  And exactly what the world, and Americans, need so desperately.

I hope you are not offended.  We only know each other through this very non-dimensional conversation, so our impressions are probably more like shadows — skewed, magnified outlines of the frail humans who write these words.  If I have read too much into the things you write (and what others write about me!) then I am guilty of those things for which you apologized and I offer mine in return.  Even when we disagree, I appreciate your points of view.  They force me to recognize that my realities, too, are often distorted by my own prisms of prejudice and misunderstanding.

PS — you often share your Buddhist teachings and thinking with me.  If you will allow me to reciprocate, the link below is for another conversation that nicely sums up much of what I believe, and why.  I offer this, not to convince you, but to help you better understand me:

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A rough guide to Hebron

 Yehuda Shaul sounds like an interesting (and courageous) fellow:

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Advice for Adi

 Adi wrote:

I don’t have anything against you sending positive things about “Arab,Moslem,Palestine”.

I definitely ask you not to send me any letter or article with diatribes on Israel,Israelis,Zionists,Israeli Army,Israeli Police,Security checking etc etc.


There are some here in the South who still refer to our American civil war as the War of Northern Aggression.  Like your Bedouins who are conflicted about the way they treat their fellow Arabs, there were many Americans, especially those who grew up in Israel, who were deeply conflicted by the War of Southern Aggression that was visited upon Lebanon during 2006.  Adi reminds me of these Americans who wrote thousands of words trying to justify the unjustifiable to other Americans, especially those who grew up or spent decades working among the people of Lebanon and Palestine/Jordan.

Hell hath no fury like these Americans, when they could no longer adequately defend the actions of their favored nation.  Their last refuge (my father once said they were like concrete: “all mixed up and set”) was to declare that the enemies of Israel were somehow endowed with innate violent urges, or that persons upset by Israel’s really poor sportsmanship (fresh photographs of dead babies really set them off) were obviously all anti-Semitic.

If Adi does not wish to receive bad news about the land he loves, then honor his request.  Unless he lives in a cave, the reality of what is happening “over there” will still, sooner or later, seep into his insanitized world.  And if he does live in a cave, perhaps one of those Bedouins could be reassigned to guard the entrance…

PS — did I ever tell you about the time I visited an Israeli restaurant just inside the main gate to San Francisco’s Chinatown?  It was on the second floor of an apartment and barely noticeable.  The sign outside declared that its food was all kosher according to some rabbi’s specifications (don’t remember much of the name except that I’m pretty sure it ended with “itz” which probably doesn’t narrow it down much).  Anyway, the menu was 100% Levantine quisine and quite excellent.  When I suggested that the food was essentially Lebanese (this was while Israel still occupied southern Lebanon), the staff was visibly upset but remained nominally hospitable.  Perhaps nominal hospitality is all some of us can manage in the face of intolerable situations…

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