Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Left in the United States Can’t Continue To Dodge This Issue. by Anthony McCarthy

Please tell us what keeps you from speaking out about the Israeli-Palestinian war.

Last night I was advised by a friend who has another blog that writing about the Israeli-Palestinian war is a ratings killer. He said that if I write on it to not be surprised that it makes me even less popular. He notes I’m considered to be a difficult blogger. Not having realized I was read enough to be considered to be any particular thing, it was sobering to find out I have a reputation. That said, I can’t live with being silent on the issue while people continue to get killed.

The pieces I’ve posted on the current Israeli-Palestinian war have been an attempt to break the widespread inhibition to talk about the issue. Reading around the blogs, there is a resistance to discuss it. Some people have said that they can’t deal with it, some people have demanded that those of us who try to talk about it, stop. One discussion that started yesterday was abruptly changed to some frivolous aspect of pop culture. Some people of good will express their hopelessness about the interminable violence and warfare. That is a very human response to an issue that seems to defy solution except on terms that are unacceptable. But it isn’t a responsible one. It isn’t a response that will do anything but allow the situation to get worse. The government of the United States is the primary backer of Israel giving massive military and economic aid to that country, with varying levels of responsibility. Under George W. Bush the support has been unconditional and entirely irresponsible, and the results of that are seen in Gaza and in Southern Israel this morning.

One of the great inhibitions to looking at the issue is the automatic equation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. As I said yesterday, that’s true only some of the time, though sometimes it is certainly 100% accurate. But by allowing the mental disabilities of anti-Semites to set the parameters of the allowable discussion for us on this issue, is irrational and irresponsible. Non-Jews can’t be allowed to take that cowardly dodge while our government arms one side and gives it blanket approval for whatever they do. We have to face that our silence is acquiescence to the status-quo. Given the results of that attitude on the ground in the Middle East, it is one that is guaranteed to get people killed.

As with other media campaigns to distort reality for the benefit of one side, the perception that any criticism of Israel was the product of hatred of Jews has been cultivated as a means of discouraging anything but knee-jerk support for whatever the Israeli government does. And, given its military resources and its political position, a lot of what the Israeli government does, has a huge potential to be pretty bad. That is intrinsic to all governments, none of them is always wise or honest or moral. No government in the world should have the presumption of innocence enforced by this kind of coercive distortion of the truth. No government should be insulated from the most rigorous critique of the morality and rationality of their actions by the fear of false accusations. In a government which is elected, part of that critique has to be focused on actions taken outside of their borders to appeal to the voters. I think the present invasion of Gaza is clearly related to the upcoming elections in Israel.

For leftists, the use of our disgust for bigotry, of our horror and shame at the genocide of Jews in the first half of the 20th century in order to inhibit our critical faculties in the Israeli-Palestinian war has to be ended. We have to have confidence in ourselves and either reject or ignore the lying and opportunistic accusations of being bigots. We have to look past the mass media and propaganda here, to see that there is a vigorous critique of the Israeli government by Jews within and outside of Israel. There is a vigorous critique of Israel to be made that is clearly not motivated by anti-Semitism. There is even a critique of the Israeli government from well established and fervent Zionists who can see that the Israeli government is as liable to do the wrong thing as any other. There are Zionists who can face that the present course leads inexorably towards complete disaster.

The present course of the United States government holds in it another danger. In the expressed fatigue of many politically involved people on the left with the issue and the increasing frustration with the constant blood letting, lie the seeds of an abandonment of Israel. If people politically aware enough to frequent the political blogs I’ve sampled are sick of the situation, other Americans are certain to be. Eventually that frustration will mount, especially in light of our economic situation. The United States’ support of the Israeli government is, I think, less secure for its being carte blanch. Today’s situation is not sustainable. Israel will lose support. It could eventually lose the support of a critical number of Americans and future governments could cut it off. The roadblock to peace that all sides seem to prefer to making any progress is not something that The People here will put up with forever.

So, that’s what I’m left with. Those are the reasons I can see for the vacancies in the chairs on the left end of the political spectrum on this issue. What will it take for us to exert our pressure, what will it take to keep people on all sides in the war from dying?