Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Historians Unknown to Larry

This week a friend who had read my blogs asked if I were making any headway with my Jewish friend, Larry. I answered that I do not expect to change Larry’s understanding of the Israel/Palestinian situation. After all, he is going to be slow to accept or believe anything I say. I am not Jewish. My only hope is that he might be influenced by the numerous Jewish authors, journalists and historians who are writing with more clarity and passion than I ever could. Larry shares their respect for the moral teachings of Judaism which I believe sooner or later will touch his conscience.

Of course, Larry has probably never heard of these courageous Jewish writers, but I can’t help but wonder how he would respond to them if he ever would read them. Would he think that they also needed to be enlightening?

Michael Lerner - - Editor of Tikkun

--- We call upon Jews in Israel and around the world to...adopt a stance of
open-hearted repentance for the unnecessary pain Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian people.[i]

--- Israel’s attempt to regain control by denying food to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, by raiding homes and dragging out the their occupants in the middle of the night to stand for hours in the cold, by savagely beating a civilian population and breaking its bones — these activities are deplorable in any civilized human being.

--- Stop the beatings, stop the breaking of bones, the late night raids on people’s homes, stop using food as a weapon of war, stop pretending that you can respond to an entire people’s agony with guns and blows and power. Publically acknowledge that the Palestinians have the same right to national self-determination that we Jews have...”[ii]

Norman Finkelstein

---Yet by 1948 the Jew was able not only to “defend himself” but to commit massive atrocities as well. Indeed, according to the former director of the Israeli archives, “in almost every Arab village occupied by us during the War of Independence, acts were committed which are defined as war crimes, such as murder, massacres, and rapes.”[iii]

Joel Kavel

--- The Two State notion is essentially a code word for the maintenance of the status quo … More than a half-century of chewing and gnawing away at Palestinian land has left the latter more a rag-doll on a stick than the framework for a living social organism. Down to some 8 percent of the original territory, surrounded by the IDF, laced with Jewish-only roads, and peppered with hundreds of settlements that arrogate the water and best land, a dumping ground for Israeli waste, its fields and olive trees destroyed, its land carved up by the “apartheid wall,” the potential Palestinian state is no more than a bad joke… more aptly called a concentration camp than a state-in-waiting.[iv]

Ilan Peppe

--- Today, Israel could have security, normalization of relations, and integration into the region. But it very clearly prefers illegal expansion, conflict, and repeated exercise of violence, actions that are not only criminal, murderous, and destructive but are also eroding its long-term security.[v]

Marc Ellis

---has identified what he calls the myth of Jewish innocence … It has the effect of making only our suffering important and erasing that of others, even where the others’ suffering is caused by us. The interest of the Jews always occupy center stage; the experience or point of view of others is secondary.[vi]

Jeff Helper

--- As of 2009, more than 24,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed – homes, we must add, of people who had already lost their homes inside Israel in 1948 and after.[vii]

---Some 350,000 Palestinians, trapped between the border and the wall, face impoverishment, alienation from their land and water, and eventual transfer. Entire cities like Qalqiliya and Tulkarm have been completely encircled.[viii]

Mark Braverman

--- You may not give out information about the abridgement of human rights in occupied Palestine, or talk about targeted assassinations, house demolitions, humiliating and life threatening restrictions on movement, or any other examples of Palestinian suffering, without presenting what is usually termed the “other side.” The “other side” is the recognition of the suffering of the Israelis, who are faced with terrorist attacks and the threat of annihilation… In my experience, the demand for “balance” is almost always made as a way to invalidate and neutralize scrutiny if those actions of Israel that are, in my view, the root cause of the threat to its own well-being and survival.[ix]

Larry’s conflict is not with me. It is not even with the Palestinians. His real conflict is with his own faith. There is no way that he can reconcile the teaching of the Jewish prophets with the conduct of the State of Israel.

I remember Marc Ellis saying that Jews today are in exactly the same spot where Christians were in the fourth century. Christians had to choose between the ethics and morality of their faith and the power of Constantine. He said that the Christians made the wrong choice then and we have not recovered yet. Jews today, he argues are having to choose between the ethics and morality of their faith and the power of the State of Israel. He cries when he sees so many of his fellow Jews making the wrong choice .

Thomas Are
June 22, 2011

[i].Michael Lerner, Healing: Israel/Palestine, (Tikkun Books, San Francisco, 2003) p. 137
[ii].Rosemary Radford Ruether and Marc Ellis, Beyond Occupation, (Beacon Press, Boston., 1990) p. 99-100.
[iii] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. P.110.
[iv] Joel Kovel, Overcoming Zionism, (Pluto Press, London, 2007) p.216
[v] Norm Chomski and Ilan Peppe, Gaza in Crisis, p. 123.
[vi] Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace. p.93.
[vii] Jeff Halper, Obstacles to Peace, p.46.
[viii] Ibid., p.38.
[ix] Mark Braverman, Fatal Embrace, p. 9.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Larry's Six Day War Myth

On their way to church last Sunday (June 5th) in New York City, some friends of mine passed through a parade on Fifth Avenue. Thousands from the Jewish community, in fact more than 30,000 according to the New York Times, celebrated Israel’s expansionist war of 1967.

My Jewish friend Larry would have joined the march with pride. To him the war of 1967 proved not only Israel’s superior courage and valor, but also God’s endorsement of Israel’s occupation of the Sinai, West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Larry sees the Six Day War as a “miracle” which established Israel as the dominant force in the Middle East. And it was all a gift from Nasser who gave Israel no choice but to defend itself. According to Larry’s article to our neighborhood paper, the taking of all this Arab land by force was justified because “Israel’s neighbors threatened Israel’s existence threatening to drive them into the sea.”

This is a myth and I have written about this previously and even listed the following quotes. I do not like repeating myself. However, this history needs to be known and repeated. Larry’s defense of the Six Day War is not only a distortion of the facts, his version is almost universally believed. I feel compelled to respond to it again.

One of the biggest myths imposed upon the American people is Larry’s claim that the Six Day War of 1967 was begun by Egypt and Israel only defended itself. But, not so according to some of Israel’s leaders:

Yitzhak Rabin - “I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it.”[i]

Mattiyahu Peled - Israeli General Staff - To pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Israeli Army.”[ii]

Mortecai Bentov - Israeli Cabinet - 1972 - “Israel’s “entire story” about the “dangers of extermination” was “invented” of whole cloth and exaggerated after the fact to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.” [iii]

Menachem Begin - 1982 - “The Egyptian army concentrated on the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” [iv]

Moshe Sharett - Former Prime Minister, years before the six Day War said- “Israeli political and military leadership never believed in any insuperable Arab dangers to Israel. They sought to maneuver and force Arab states into military confrontations which the Zionist leadership were certain of winning so Israel could carry out the destabilization of Arab regimes and the planned occupation of additional territory.”[v]

King Abdullah II of Jordan has been dealing with Israel’s aggression since he was five years old. I think he gets it just about right when he says:

One of Israel’s greatest talents has been exaggerating the threat posed by countries it considers strategic enemies, perpetrating the story of it being a tiny nation, surrounded by hostile powers. This myth has allowed the Israelis to portray their own calculated acts of aggression as self-defense and, in some cases, to persuade other nations to attack its enemies in its stead.[vi]

No sooner than Israel declared itself to be a state than its expansion goals were announced. When asked about borders, David Ben-Gurion said,

As for setting borders, it’s an open ended matter. In the Bible as well as in our history, there are all kinds of definitions of the countries borders. There is no real limit. No border is absolute. If it is a desert, it could just as well be the other side. If it is a sea, it could also be across the sea.[vii]

To this day, after 62 years of statehood, and 44 years of occupying Palestinian lands, Israel has yet to declare its borders. It seems obvious to anyone willing to see that 1967 was not a defensive war, but a part of a larger master plan to claim Arab lands. Either Larry knows something that all of these leaders of Israel missed, or the truth is just too hard for him. I guess its almost impossible to understand something if your self image is dependent upon your not understanding it.
Thomas Are
June 14, 2011

[i].Paul Finley, Deliberate Deceptions, Facing the Facts about the U.S., Israeli Relationship, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago,. 1993.) p. 36.
[ii]. Clifford A. Wright, Facts and Fables: The Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Kegan Paul International, New York, 1989.) p.132.
[iii].Paul Finley, Deliberate Deceptions, Facing the Facts about the U.S., Israeli Relationship, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago,. 1993.) p. 36.
[iv].Clifford A. Wright, Facts and Fables: The Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Kegan Paul International, New York, 1989.) p.132.
[v].Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.59.
[vi] King Abdullah II, Our Last Best Chance, (Viking Penguin, 2011) p. 17
[vii].Knowledge Products audio Cassette on The Middle East, narrated by Harry Reasoner. 1991., (Carmichael and Carmichael, Nashville, Tennessee.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lunch with Larry

It’s been a while since my last blog , (Feb. 24th), but I have not retired from the cause. Last January, I taught a four weeks class using Steadfast Hope, an excellent study of the Israel/Palestine issue published by the Presbyterian Church.

I share this as a lead in to a challenge I received from a Jewish neighbor who was “shocked” at the report of my class because he found it to be “much misleading and inaccurate from a factual and historical point of view. I think it is you who needs to be enlightened and have a wake up call,” he wrote. He submitted a long criticism of my position to the neighborhood paper for publication. However, he offered to meet with me one on one that he might “enlighten” me. I immediately contacted him for a lunch and we finally got together this past week.

Larry is a very likable and devoted Jew, committed to the Torah and to the State of Israel. I am grateful for the time I had with him. However, I found his knowledge of Israel’s history somewhat lacking. He built his case on three arguments. Most of all, “God gave that land to the Jews and the Arabs should accept the will of God and get out.” He also declared that Jews are smart and therefore Israel is an intelligent and moral nation, the only democracy in the Middle East with the most moral army on the globe. Finally, Larry lifted up the suffering of Jews as a justification for anything Israel wanted to do. I came to believe that the only way Larry could reconcile his respect for the teachings of the prophets with the actions of Israel over the past 64 years is to deliberately avoid knowing or believe the “stories” of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Larry is unaware of, or will not admit knowing about, the ethnic cleansing of 1948. He believes the Six Day War of 1967 was the work of Nasser. And he justifies the wall by saying it stopped suicide bombers, but he had no interest in the route of the wall or the pain it causes Palestinians. He feels that settlements simply need to be negotiated, keeping in mind that Samaria and Judea were given to the Jews by God. He admires Netanyahu and cannot understand why Presbyterians would be picking on Israel. I hope I have not misrepresented Larry. I did like him. However, in my next few blogs, I will respond to Larry, but I will address only his written article, not our private conversation. The words in bold print are his words.

Larry wrote, there has “never been a country of Palestine ruled or governed by Palestinians; in fact there has never been a Palestinian people per se.”

I say, not so. In fact, there is a Palestinian people now, governed by Palestinians. I have met Palestinians who proudly presented their Palestinian passports. They were issued by Jordan but they were passports of Palestinian citizens, not Jordanians. But let’s suppose Larry is right. Just because the Palestinians had no government to protect them, would that give Israel the right to kill, destroy homes, steal water, imprison and exile because they were “not a people?” Larry is echoing what Golda Meir said, “It’s not as though we came in and drove them out and took their land, they did not exist.”[1] On page 160 of Jeff Sharlet’s The Family, he writes about the efforts of Germans to forget what they had allowed to happen during the war.

In Nuremberg, a little girl asked her mother where the Jews of “Jew Street” are. Hush, There are none, darling, there never were.

How hard it must be for those who have been oppressed for so long to admit that they have now become the oppressors.

The point is, Palestinians are human beings who share this planet with the rest of us. They work, educate and feed their children. They love and respect the rights of others, like all civilized people do, and they worship God

Larry proudly pointed out that “Israel was the first country on the ground in Haiti after last years earthquake." I agree, and this was Israel at its best.
However, Larry was shocked to learn that without much fanfare, the Palestinians in Gaza, because of their religion, and out of their poverty, took offerings for the people of Haiti

At the same time, Israel did not respond to the “earthquake” caused by Israel right next door in Gaza during December-January 2009. Rather Israel bombed hospitals, schools, sewage plants and community centers, destroying 22,000 buildings. Israel called it a war. Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, mostly women and children. Israel lost 13, six by friendly fire. Israel did drop leaflets warning Palestinians to get out. But all the exit routes were closed by Israel. Where was a mother and her small children supposed to go to be safe?

There were no medical teams like those sent to Haiti. Rather, Israel enforced a barricade blocking out fuel, food, and medicine. This closure remains in effect until this day.

None of this was acknowledged by Larry who still insisted that Israel is the most moral nation on the globe.

More response to Larry in my next blog.

Thomas Are
June 9, 2011

[1] There are numerous sources for this quote. I read it first in Naim Ateek’s, Justice and Only Justice, (Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 1989). p. 36