An American’s Letter Home

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If I were an Israeli I’d emigrate; the current myopia of Zionist foreign policy is so bankrupt that there can be no future for Israeli peace and prosperity by their program of overkill in the name of defense.
Unless Israelis take the initiative to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, allowing the Palestinians an independent, viable state, free to enjoy the international respect demanded by every other member of the United Nations, there can be no future for them other than guerrilla warfare with Palestinians.
Alexander Hamilton was once quoted as having said: “The mob, Sir, is a beast.” In contrast, Thomas Jefferson took the position of believing that if you give everybody free access to all the facts of a given issue, eventually the public will come to common sense of and take the best action. Responsible journalists nowadays subscribe to that conviction.
We have the problem of persuading our fellow Americans to embrace that point of view because clearly, both Washington and the public at large have little comprehension of what is behind the violent tension afoot in this part of the world.
Is it a matter of simply not understanding, or of not wanting to understand ­ or, worse, of not even wanting to try to understand? Otherwise, how does one explain that the US Congress has voted to award Israel hundreds of millions of dollars to underwrite the expenses of Israeli evacuation from a land they have illegally occupied for two decades, with no one daring to suggest, even in a whisper, “what about compensation to the Lebanese for all the death and destruction perpetrated on that innocent land by the invading Zionists?”
We now live by leadership responding to polls, and Congress is obviously in thrall to the popular sentiment  that is now blind, or indifferent, to the injustices that have been practiced with impunity by an aggressive community upon its neighbors ­ neighbors who had lived there for hundreds of years before 1948.
By what precedents of civilization does a new state feel it has the right to occupy adjacent lands, relocate the inhabitants by destroying their homes, and then police them in such a way as to prohibit them from freedom of movement while restricting them in their means to earn a decent living?
Blame the Palestinians for today’s ongoing violence? Ha! How naive can we be? who among us would not become desperate if invaders took our homes, killed our families, denied us civil rights and the freedom to work as we please? But the Palestinians have been displaced, living in camps and submitting to the brutality of an all-powerful army. And we wonder why they are so upset, nay, finally out of control? What is more disturbing is to point fingers at the Palestinian leadership for their refusal to sign a peace that would forswear all their rights as citizens to property and privileges that had been taken away from them. What kind of “compromise” is it to offer someone a quarter of what has been taken him?
Let no one indulge the illusion that Arab refugees will sign a peace deal that denies them the right of return. Furthermore, let no one entertain the idea that the billion-plus Muslims on this Earth will ever accept Zionist management of Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the forfeiture of East Jerusalem as a capital for a Palestinian State.
All of this leads to a need for deeper perception of the Mediterranean area. Quite understandably, in an America pre-occupied by clauses in the First Amendment of the Constitution debarring government establishment of any official religions, it can be hard to envision a society quite imbedded in religious belief. But, in fact, every nation east of Gibraltar is so organized.
Of course, Israel has not yet decided whether it is a Jewish or secular state, but from Roman Catholicism through Greek Orthodoxy to Maronite Christianity to  Islamic Arabia and on to the Far East, it becomes terribly important for one to make clear as to what is his/her faith.
In Lebanon at one extreme, religious affiliation is so important that Parliament is composed of deputies in proportion to the number of respective faithful an elected member represents. At the other extreme, Saudi Arabia, guardian of Mecca, offers no citizenship to anyone other than a Saudi Muslim.
Does this help clarify the reaction to Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, surrounded by a bodyguard 1,000 men strong? (Of course, what causes me, a Protestant, to wonder is why are all the American Christian priests, bishops, and pastors so quiescent about Zionist supervision of areas where Christ lived and died?)
The Middle East crisis offers a classic case: 35 years ago a rabbi I met at a party, one Elmer Berger, gave me instant clarification. We were talking about religious beliefs in this area, and he said to me: “We Jews believe we were chosen by God to suffer, in His behalf, the hurt we cause others, the injustice people perpetuate in society, in short, all of man’s shortcomings in every way.”
Then be paused, lifted a finger waving it for emphasis, and said in a firm voice: “But that has nothing to do with real estate”
How crystal clear! Judaism expounded upon how men and women related to each other, not on how much land believers could claim was their right to retain as allegedly promised by Jehovah. It was important to be a Jew, practicing his faith, but not taking property. There it is!
Judaism vis-à-vis Zionism. And it’s Zionism that is making all the difference between war and peace in the Near East.
What makes me think so? When I came to Beirut in 1960 to take charge of the International College, I inherited a school that was successfully practicing multi-ethnic education. We were a community composed of students from 46 different countries, committed to 16 different faiths. The faculty was of proportionately diverse background and beliefs. A learned Jew was our librarian and another distinguished Jew headed our physics department.
Thanks to our founder and the school’s forebears, we proved to be a healthy campus ­ perhaps the best in the Middle East, preparing students for higher education in English, French, and of course, Arabic.
But were not alone on the campus in Beirut in embracing individuals of different faiths and national backgrounds. The whole country of Lebanon honored diversity. Indeed, even the Jewish settlers in the city knew of their freedom, and equal protection, as guaranteed by law. But all that changed in 1969, as the whole area re-aligned itself following the 1967 war. Zionism’s armies redrew the map of the Levant.
More than Lebanese citizens became casualties when Israel defied all international principles by invading southern Lebanon to establish a “security zone” on foreign soil to protect its own citizens. The real casualty was justice. America not only looked the other way, but also opted to bankroll all expenses involved in this Zionist aggression ­ including the Israeli invasion to the streets of Beirut itself!
What is encouraging (if not pathetic, in its impotence) is the work of Israeli civil- and human-rights groups who stand against the Zionist militia in the West Bank as the army personnel harass Palestinians in their restricted housing. At least some Israelis recognize that there can never be peace in the Middle East so long as the army surrounds and isolates the Arab villages.
Is it too difficult to grasp the idea that, after being treated as second-class human beings for 50 years, the Palestinians are fed up with their refugees camp life that wounds their pride and sense of dignity?
What has happened to America’s sense of fair play? Indeed one should ask: how equitable has been America’s help to the sundry nations of the Near East for the past half century? Fifty times $4 billion for Israel, millions for Egypt ­ and don’t laugh, a few herds of diary cows for Lebanon! We should not overlook, also, donations of the most advanced, sophisticated armament, plus intimate cooperation between the intelligence agencies, the CIA and the Mossad.
Are we so committed to the Old Testament that that we are afraid to say that Menachem Begin was the initiator of terrorism when he bombed the King David Hotel to drive the British out; or, that the Israeli air attack on the USS Liberty (killing more than 30 sailors) was no accident; or, that the massacre of refugees in the UNIFIL compound at Qana was in fact calculated intent; or that destruction of Lebanese power plants (repeatedly) was grossly unfair retaliation as a response to ambushes of Israeli soldiers on Lebanese territory?
Of course, the Zionist air force has been free to over fly Lebanon for three decades, never hesitating to break windows with sonic booms as they have violated Lebanese airspace with no fear of being challenged. Does this raise any eyebrows in the West regarding equity in observing international law?
Perhaps most arrogant of all Israeli aggression has been the kidnapping of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians, keeping them in captivity with no charges and denying the prisoners resources to any counsel. Cases of torture have been reported, and some even acknowledged.
The world is paying little attention to this object violation of human rights. But the world is not allowed to be unaware of the capture of three Israeli soldiers on patrol in disputed territory of southern Lebanon. Why? Because the captors were Hizbullah, a group of “terrorists” defending their native land. (Just like the patriots around Boston 225 years ago?)
And now America is still wringing its hands in apparent lack of understanding as to why thousands of Palestinians are risking their lives with stones in defiance of Zionist bullets and gun ships of Israel’s military.
Well, the genie is out of the bottle now. Israel has committed itself to becoming an isolated fortress. And there will be no peace in our lifetime unless Israel takes the initiative to pull out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, admitting to its errors of judgment in dismissing its Arab neighbors as less than equals in the eyes of God. In corollary, the Israeli leaders must also lift their sights and see that a Palestinian state, enjoying full international rights ­ and responsibilities ­ offers not only the sole hope for peace, but also an open door to prosperity for Israel in a world of nations now in vast majority opposed to aggressive Israeli policies with censures of condemnation.
Let America no longer pretend to be an “honest broker” in pursuit of peace. Washington, with its blind, unwavering support of Israel, has made of that term a classic oxymoron. From these days on America’s military might and Israel’s nuclear bombs will be of no use in helping to bring justice to the peoples of the Middle East. It has been that noted civilization got started in this part of the world. Let it never be said that it died here because the United States got its moral values confused when push came to shove.
 
Thomas C. Schuller is a former president of the International College. He contributed this work to The Daily Star (Lebanon)

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