Thursday, August 20, 2009

Honesty in Debate (Yeah, About the Mideast)

Some American politicians make no bones about their pro-Israeli feelings: they want Israel to own Palestine and probably to rule the Mideast (at least to the degree of having total military dominance). Call this racism, religious bias or whatever, at least you know where they stand. Several recent gubernatorial and Congressional visitors to Israel belong to this club. They define "Israel" as all the land the current clique of rightwing Israeli politicians (backed by the fundamentalist faction of Israeli rabbis) want - certainly all of Israel, certainly all of Palestine except Gaza (which Israel is trying to erase from the earth or at least destroy and pass off to Egypt for clean-up). There is no point in trying to reason with this group; they are committed to one side and uninterested in justice or compromise; they want victory. Fair enough. We understand their position. Many Muslims have the mirror-image position: al Qua'ida, perhaps the Mesbah-Ahmed Khatami types in Iran, probably some Taliban although certainly not all, probably a faction within Hamas.

More dangerous is another group, those who pretend to be fair, reasonable, moderate but then make arguments such as this:

"Israel is an independent country; who are we (Americans) to tell it what to do, where its citizens should live, how it should negotiate?"

That, we must all admit, is a perfectly beautiful sentiment. If those who mouth these words to conceal their obsequiously Likudnik beliefs only believed what they say!

If the U.S. adopted a neutral position, then this might indeed be a logical and just stance for the U.S. to take. But that would require either that we stop fueling the Israeli military machine and stop underwriting the Israeli economy (not to mention making up for all the advantages Israel has accrued through past U.S. pro-Israeli bias). Then, yes, who would we be to tell independent Israel what to do?

But the reality is that there is no such entity as "the independent state of Israel." When Israeli storehouses are stocked with American bunker-buster weapons of mass destruction provided by the U.S. and U.S. long-range jet bombers; when the U.S. rushes jet fuel to Israeli jets attacking Lebanon; when the U.S. pretends it does not see Israeli collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazan civilians under the thumb of speak of an "independent" Israel is simply mendacious.

There are Israelis who would like to be independent. There are Israelis who recall the original pioneering spirit. There are even Israelis who at least know that far in the past (the 1930s and even in 1948 as the Zionist military units were starting the ethnic cleansing campaign), Jews and Arabs lived together as neighbors in villages across Palestine.

To care about Israel is not the same as to support a rightwing, bellicose military machine demanding hegemony over the Mideast. And if the U.S. is determined to sponsor such a machine, then it absolutely has the right to tell it what to do. If Israelis prefer independence, then let them stop asking for handouts.

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