I was not planning on writing about Israel, but who knew they would be so ridiculous this week. First came the report that they are deporting 400 children born in Israel of Palestinian parents. The justification? Zionism. Seriously, the cabinet publicly claimed that they were deporting these children to ensure the preservation of the Jewish nature of the state of Israel. This is despite a public appeal by the wife of the Prime Minister. In pretty much every other developed country in the world, if you are born there, you are given citizenship. Guess not in Israel.
The second impressive story, that is more noteworthy for its potential impact, is the soldier who posted a group photo of herself and some Palestinian friends (who happen to be handcuffed and blindfolded in front of a cement barrier). Lovely photo.
Nothing more to say really.Published on August 16, 2010
Complicity in Gaza
Gaza has faded from the news cycle, that is why it is even more important to remind ourselves of what happened and how it happened. This short clip of Chris Hedges paints a powerful portrait of US complicity. Their and by extension Canadian weapons are used to kill civilians in Gaza. As with South Africa, little will happen for Israeli-Palestinian peace until we stop sending free bombs, planes and tanks to Israel. It is our silence and complicity that allow the massacre to continue.Published on May 17, 2010
Israeli occupation must end says Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak, Labour party defence minister, and former prime minister of Israel has publicly stated the occupation of Palestinian territories is not sustainable and must end. This adds to his previous claim that if Palestinians continue to be occupied without the right to vote, Israel will become an apartheid state, as Jimmy Carter clearly stated (and was crucified for in the US) (article).
Israel’s military occupation is dependant on US financial and military subsidies. Without US support, the system is not sustainable – let alone moral. Just as the US support of South African apartheid was the linchpin that eventually gave way, so too it will be with Israel. There is no question public opinion on Israel has moved dramatically in the last ten years.
Inside Israel, opinion has been polarized with more people at both extremes and more settlers than ever before and 10% of the population is part of the Hassidic Jewish community. It is hard to see how internal mouvements by Israelis will bring about change. Palestinian non-violence has the possibility to influence external influence which is likely to be the only thing that changes things.
Outside Israel, the major Jewish lobby, AIPAC, still claims to represent the jewish interest, but the reality is that university campuses are more and more agreed that the current situation of mass occupation is immoral and must stop. Before, you could not hold conferences on occupation and Palestinian oppression on campuses without inciting claims of antisemitism. Today, it is common practice for students to organize and demonstrate against the situation. The anti-apartheid week, started 6 years ago is growing steadily on university campuses around the world. Students don’t decide international politics, but once you lose the support of the young, it is only a matter of time before things change.Published on April 20, 2010
Israel – The Night is Darkest before the Dawn
I have spoken my mind on Israel numerous times, notably here, here and here, but the following is perhaps my most comprehensive post.
First, let me state this clearly, I believe in absolutes. There is such a thing as The Truth. We can never be perfectly just nor perfectly true, that would be disingenuous of us – but it is something we can live into, something to constantly strive for. Too often we settle for compromise, we are told “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder, “justice” is relative, and “truth” is hidden – these are stories to help us sleep at night. The most fundamental human truth is very simple: all people have equal rights. Consequently, any situation that violates this rule is unjust.
Ah! But what of the fog of war and the clouds of perception? Merely obstacles to finding the truth and honoring it, not excuses to hide behind. The use of a “comprimise of ideals” is perhaps best illustrated by Israel’s behaviour. They claim to be unable to abide by UN resolutions, the Charter for Human Rights and other protocols because of the threats they face, they are wrong and they are wronging all of us when they say so.
On Israel, emotions are particularly sensitive. From my writings and postings on Israel, I have received much love, a good deal of indifference and too much hate; I hope to convert some of that hate into compassion. Nearly all the indignation against the defense of Palestinian rights, at the perceived expense of Israeli “self-defense”, emanates from good, decent people. In response to negative remark of Israel’s behaviour, the reaction from the Jewish community, without major exception, is a genuine sense of anger and offense. In all other walks of life, these same individuals are kind, generous, and loving, but when it comes to Israel, they quickly become enraged, threatening, and disrespectful of all but their own opinion. It is not their fault. The Israelis and their supporters see the world differently than you and I.
The supporters of Israel have been conditioned. They have been trained to believe that the nation, and its people, are on the constant brink of annihilation – from Hitler, to Iran, to Hamas – they are scared. Similar to America’s overreaction to 9/11, Israel has been in a constant state of convulsion, unable to see what they have done and who they are becoming. A major hurdle to a reasonable agreement between the Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbours is the military culture that has been created in Israel. When every 18 year old child is forced to join in the military, and most see some form of action, they grow up thinking that war is normal. It’s not. The only way to break the culture and conscription is to alleviate the genuine concerns Israelis have for their safety.
Most of Europe had conscription until the 1980s, nearly 35 years after WWII. Once the EU had been established and there were clearly no wars on the horizon, the countries could relax their military systems and effectively remove conscription. It will take a similar amount of time in Israel, but dismantling the military culture will be a fundamental part of and consequence of genuine peace and co-operation with their neighbours. Because of their military culture, Israel sees hatred and threats rather than opportunity or an open hand; in effect, they see the world through emerald glasses. In addition to the European model, the struggle for rightful representation through non-violence in India, South Africa and Segregated America stand as a beacon of light and possible inspiration for the Palestenians.
Remove these glasses and by most lengths of the stick, Israeli citizens share more with their Arab neighbours than they do with Americans, Canadians or Europeans. With their neighbours, they share history, food, culture and most importantly – location. Israelis, in the national sense of the word, are brothers with the Arabs, and cousins with the rest of the world. If we build on this shared heritage, peace is possible.
In the struggle for Indian independence, Gandhi and his followers clearly stated that they were not fighting the British people, but rather The British System. The Israeli System, not so dissimilar, with its external American support, has corrupted its institutions, ideals and principals – to its own detriment. It is the system which must be fought, not the people.
How to fight such a system? I believe in massive non-cooperation and non-violence. Palestinians should refuse to work for Israeli companies, liberal minded citizens of the world should not purchase items which contribute to the construction and growth of the settlements and countries should not sell weapons of agression to Israel. Gandhi laid out his views on Israel and Palestine quite clearly,
“Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They [the Jews] have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus is very close. ” … Gandhi went on to say, “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the Arab heart, who rules the Jewish heart. … Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth. Every country is their home including Palestine, not by aggression but by loving service.”
Published in Harijan on November 26, 1938
A fundamental tenet of Gandhi’s philosophy is the extraction from the past, forgiveness of your enemy and the triumph of love over fear. The Palestinians and their supporters must be just and show Israel how wrong it is. Israel must be shamed into accepting the equality of the Palestenians and Israel must step out from it’s historical context into the modern, international, world. Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker, has written a wise and timely book title, “The Holocaust is Over; We must Rise from It’s Ashes“. His main thesis is that Israel and her supporters lean on the Holocaust, pogroms, wars, suicide bombs and other traumatic events as a reason not to act and an immunity against criticism. They live in the past and cannot move forward. He goes on to say that whenever criticism is brought up against Israel, it is placed against the backdrop of the holocaust – making it more palatable. When he stated his objections to the Gaza war, his Israeli friends replied, “It’s not the holocaust!”, of course not. And in contrast to it, the Gaza war seems moderate. To break the cycle of violence, the current conflict must be removed from the historical context.
Too often, the defenders of Israel state proudly, “Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only country to tolerate a pluralistic society and defend women’s rights” and then expect that this somehow excuses them from their gross abuses of international and human rights law. There are numerous democracies that have descended into folly, democracy guarantees neither a healthy or just society and does not offer a shield cloak against criticism and legal prosecution, if anything being democratic means the people are responsible for the government. Let us pause and think about what the Israeli system has become.
Imagine what could have been. Israel, a home to the jewish people, victims of terrible crimes, could have been a beacon of hope, tolerance and peace. It could have stood up for the people in Rwanda, the Tibetans, the people in Darfur, the blacks in segregated America, the monks in Burma, and the black South Africans during Apartheid. That would have been a noble state indeed. Imagine, what could have been and what can still be, if only we try with all our hearts.
Below is an interview concerning the book by Avraham Burg:
In fact, their is little anthropological evidence to support a genetic Diaspora, the Jewish faith spread around the Meditaranean basin, not the people (Source).
See this interesting BBC debate that degenerates into Alan Dershowitz calling Michael Scheuer a bigot. Avraham Burg, same mentioned above, and Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN (Likud), were also present at the heated debate.
Further Suggested Readings:
The Fateful Triangle – Noam Chomsky
A Defense of Israel – Alan Dershowitz
Peace, Not Apartheid – Jimmy Carter
From Beirut to Jerusalem – Thomas Friedman
All the Articles I have posted to Facebook since January 1st, 2009 as of April 8th, 2009:
Op-Ed Columnist – Israel Cries Wolf – NYTimes.com
Op-Ed Contributor – Israel on Trial – NYTimes.com
BBC NEWS | Middle East | New support for West Bank outpost
Palestinians serenade survivors in Israel – International Herald Tribune
How some military rabbis are trying to radicalize Israeli soldiers. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slat
Soldiers’ accounts of Gaza killings raise furor in Israel – International Herald Tribune
The Palestinian Perspective: What the World Looks Like from the West Bank an…
Israel has plans for 73,000 settlement homes | Reuters
The novelist in wartime | Salon Books
Reflections of War – 14 Feb 09 – Part 1
Obama, take away the pain in my stomach
Charlie Rose – A conversation with Jimmy Carter
Carter’s One Regret – The Daily Beast
www.zcommunications.org– Chomsky on the recent War on Gaza
Edge: HOW WORDS COULD END A WAR By Scott Atran & Jeremy Ginges
globeandmail.com: Anti-Arab sentiment swells among youth in aftermath of Gaza war
Eyeless in Gaza – The New York Review of Books
Palestinian Astrophysicist in US Recounts How His 11-Year-Old Son Died in a Israeli Warplane Bombing
Gazan Doctor and Peace Advocate Loses 3 Daughters to Israeli Fire and Asks Why – NYTimes.com
Charlie Rose – An update on Gaza
Richard Silverstein: The Israeli foreign ministry itself is asking volunteers to flood news websites
Gaza: satirizing world media
Israeli strike on UN headquarters in Gaza a ‘total disaster’: UN director
King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein (1882-1951)
Pro-Israel Against Gaza…Max Blumenthal
Israeli public broadly backs the war against Gaza – International Herald Tribune
Naomi Klein: Enough. It’s time for a boycott of Israel | Comment is free | The Guardian
BILL MOYERS JOURNAL | Bill Moyers on Mideast Violence | PBS
Robert Fisk’s World: Wherever I go, I hear the same tired Middle East comparisons – Robert Fisk, Com
Charlie Rose – A conversation with Bob Simon
Israeli / Palestinian Coffin Counter
AGORAVOX – The Citizen Media
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Propaganda war: trusting what we see?Published on April 9, 2009
Brothers in the Desert
The Israeli situation produces many opinions in the Jewish community, but overwhelmingly it has elicited support. This is very sad. If the subject of the Palestinians is broached with Jewish people you typically get two responses, negation of any major wrong by Israel and an indifference to the suffering of the Palestinian people. If the discussion is pushed further, it becomes clear that rational thought is thrown out the window. The conversation becomes completely emotional and therefore impossible.
So why bother? For the same reason that Gandhi tried to make peace between the Muslims and Hindus, because it is right.
A major hurdle is that both camps are entrenched in their positions, the Pro-Palestine on one side and the Pro-Israeli on the other. Where is the Pro-Peace camp? Lately even brave organizations such as Peace Now – who advocate immediate peace – have been marginalized and told by Israelis to stay out of the way. Where is a strong leader on both sides? Well, the Israelis kill most of the Palestinian leaders or marginalize them and on the Israeli side, people like Yitzhak Rabin are killed and Avraham Burg are ostracized.
So, where is this conflict going? Why is it happening? Quick answer, it is happening because people are letting it happen. The fault lies with everyone, Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, Jews, You, Me. It is not their fault, whoever “they” might be, it is our fault. Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari succinctly explained, “Peace is a question of will”.
In a quick experiment, I emailed every Jewish person I knew with a link to an article about an innocent man killed in Gaza, along with a quote from Rabbi Hillel concerning the Golden Rule, and a note stating I was going to boycott Israeli products (not that I buy any to start with). Emails and Responses are below. Most went without response. The responses I did get conveyed outrage or a desire to not be bothered. I doubt they even read the article I linked to.
In contrast to my simple non-denominational non-violent e-mail, I have repeatedly received chain letters (from Jews) with “facts” about Israel, Arabs and Jews. These chain-letters are at least 50% categorically false and about 50% irrelevant to the ongoing conflict. One thing they are, is racist. Example here, and here (with rebuttal). It is very sad to see people who were only 60 years ago subject to the same misinformation, use it against their neighbours.
When it comes to North American Jews, how can people who have so much wealth and so little love? Where is the compassion between relatives? After all, if you believe in the Torah or Qur’an, the Arabs and Jews are born of the same father, Abraham. Separated when still young, Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, were estranged for years. Even amongst their descendants, little has changed.
It is even more peculiar is that North American Jews are more war-mongering than the Israelis, which is pretty remarkable for people who have never served in the military, been attacked by another nation, or probably ever been in a serious physical altercation. The question becomes, how we exit this negative feedback loop?
Not easy, but reading history would probably help. One thing that is clear, pacification through force does not last. The only long-lasting peace-building has been through co-operation and non-violent resistance. I am an engineer, and as such, I believe in cause and effect. Every action has an equal or greater reaction. The only way to break the cycle is to stop fighting.
Imagine if India had attacked Pakistan after the recent bombings in Mumbai? Two nuclear nations going at it; India has the brains and history to understand the futility of such a war. What would Israel have done if over a 100 civilians were killed? The answer is, sadly, written in the deaths of Gaza. It is time to stop and say, Enough! As Mahatma Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye will leave the world blind”.
Recently, Charlie Rose interviewed Bob Simon on 60 minutes about the current conflict in Israel. The main hurdle right now is indifference. People are passionate about the issue, but they are unwilling to really sit down and say, “We are going to solve this and we are not leaving until we have”.
One of the many things Bob Simon said was (paraphrasing), “The people of Tel Aviv do not want to talk about Palestinians. They have a good life, in a beautiful city. Why should they be concerned with the Gaza strip?” Probably, the same thing was true of the British in India, the Whites in Cape Town, the French in Haiti, … the list is long. As Bob Simon explains, due to the settlements in the West Bank, a two-state solution is not viable anymore. If a one state solution (confederation like Canada) or federation (think Germany) is the inevitable situation, maybe you should stop killing your future citizens.
It is time for Israel and Palestine to grow up. Peace will only come if they are willing to treat their neighbours with the same respect they request. The Israelis will only act under American pressure, but the Palestinans can act today, through non-violent resistance. Every rocket that is launched from Gaza perversely helps Israeli hawks, and yet both parties have the power to break the cycle, the question is who will do it first. It is a lot easier to bomb, kill and hate than it is to love, sacrifice and care. No one person is to blame for this mess, we all are.
Remember, in the book of Genesis, Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael, after years of estrangement, come back to bury their father, together.
Original email I sent:
You are all the jewish people in my address book. I know I bombard Facebook with articles, but here is one, short, single, story about the tragedy currently occurring.
Personally, I will be boycotting all Israeli products for the forceable future – it worked for South Africa, maybe it will work here.
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” – Rabbi Hillel
“Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.” – Elie Wiesel
Responses I got:
Jon, you’ve taken it too far- really. While you might have greviances towards the recent actions of the Israeli government, it is unfair to hurt an entire economy or people to make a political point. Throwing aside the economic reason mentioned, as its not like you’re purchasing falafel balls everyday, i think you’re behaving with a quick knee-jerk reaction. South Africa treated its people terribly each and everyday for decades. Israel is NOT South Africa. While you can question the legitimacy of this specific operation and the awful humanitarian effects it has had, Israel does not go out and do this everyday and i would argue would never do so if it was not attacked. Black south africans did not shoot rockets into Johanessburg, and if they did let me tell you i’m sure the boycott would not have been so successful.
I understand your disgust- we expect more from Israel. But this is not the way to show your criticism and dismay. Write opinion pieces, write to your MP, the usual route but I strongly disagree with your decision to boycott Israeli goods. Israel should receive blanket support for its actions this time round, agreed, but neither should it pay such a cost.
i’d be happy to continue this conversation further.
2. Brun, I’m surprised to see someone with your level of education and intellect be swayed into a mood of such hatred by a single news article authored by a reporter from Gaza. If you have such feelings, that is your business and your right. But there is no need for you to spread the hatred on behalf of a terrorist organization such as Hamas.
3. Brun, just so you know, your arguments and opinion align fully with the Concordia student group responsible for the Netanyahu riot in 2001 (I believe? Not sure the exact date). They also believed a boycott of Israel was needed. They also complained of Israel cutting off their resources. I was a student at ConU at that time, and had to go to class with a small weapon due to the thuggery present. My Jewish classmate was beaten up because he wore a yamaka (jewish head covering). By endorsing the idea of a boycott of Israel and its products, u r, in my mind, as low as those thugs sitting in the Hall building of Concordia. Why not support some other cause like stopping the seal hunt in Canada, preventing global warming, or promoting the legalization of full contact strip clubs?
Here’s a website listing of companies ull have to boycott to get you started:
Not sure why u ended ure last email in shalom. If u boycott Israel, why use its word for peace?
4. jonathan, please do not include me on your email list when expressing political views…….there are as many different views and perspectives as there are minutes in a day………
you had sent me a quote, now let me forward one to you……..
As Golda Meir once said:
“[The Arabs] will stop fighting us when they love their children more than they hate [Jews].”
NOTE by Jonathan: The quote from Golda Meir is disputed and I cannot find a reliable source for it, please point me in the right direction.
5. Please do not send me more articles.
Thanks very much. See you soon.Published on January 10, 2009