(Mr. John-Paul Leonard wrote the following article in response to a letter from Dr. Andrew E. Mathis to the Editor)
I am glad to receive such a well-reasoned reply to my outburst of rage at the oppression of the Palestinians, and also with agreement on the main point, return to the 1967 borders, for which there is broad consensus.
My article was written under the first shock of realization that our country has been involved in genocide again for the last two generations. I hoped to convey that shock to my fellow citizens, to provoke and wake them from complacency – the attitude that, oh, those people have been going at each other for thousands of years – when in fact the problem was recently manufactured in Europe and maintained in the USA.
Sometimes actions do speak louder than words. The Zionists have used every method, fair or foul, to continue taking over more of Palestine’s land and water for the last 120 years, and Oslo has been another cover for this. Many distinguished Jewish observers have also decided it is time to break the taboo against criticizing Israel which dates from the Holocaust. It is unhealthy to exempt anyone from critical debate, especially when license is abused. In fact, the level of debate in the Israeli press is far more developed than that allowed here, where non-Jews are not even supposed to use the Z-word.
Unfortunately, nations are founded on might rather than right, Israel no less than others. The partition of Palestine was proposed by the UN, which was controlled by the allies, but it was not ours to partition. Anyway, the Zionists then took it by violence. What gave the foundation of Israel a color of right was, more than anything else, the Holocaust, plus the shared legends of the Old Testament. But these ideas had absolutely no relevance to the real owners of the land, descended from peoples who have always been there. Nor could they see it as their responsibility to accept European refugees when they themselves were struggling under the colonial yoke. For them Israel will never be right, just as the USA will never be right to the Sioux.
That does not mean they cannot sign a peace agreement, nor does Israel’s flawed foundation give anyone a right to forcibly evict the Jews from Israel now, to add crime on crime. Nor do most Palestinians really want this, although I fear that patience is wearing thin. But to insist that they declare that their expulsion was right is a perfect way of blocking any agreement – and thus a convenient, if cynical opening to grab more of their land. One is reminded how we drove out the Indians with a combination of bullets plus a blizzard of paper to assuage our consciences.
What is most frightening is how Israel is undermining its own store of political legitimacy recently at a rate which could leave it friendless and surrounded by enemies before long.
Every human being has an innate sense of justice. For this we don’t need to be experts, who often get so lost in bits of paper and paragraphs and precedents that they lose touch with their sense of justice. To me, democracy is about speaking out against injustice, and not about letting the experts trap you into sophistries that make black into white and victims into assailants. That sounds more like totalitarianism.
Concerning the ungentle verbal usages of some Jews, I think we all know there are nice people and other ones in every nation. The friendly ones will sometimes tell you what the mean ones in their group say behind your back. I would not have brought this up but at the time I had just been through my first attempt to speak out in the media, on the Yahoo message board, and it was a harrowing experience. I abandoned that forum to avoid getting pulled down into the mud – slinging, but on balance, I had found the Zionists behaving more nastily than the skinheads, and that is no compliment. I heard an even more incredible example was printed in the Boston Globe a while back – “The Arabs be damned, and Mohamed and Allah too.” Such intolerance would be inconceivable from Moslems, who revere Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
We who oppose Israeli militarism for reasons of conscience need to keep our balance and not fall into the trap of letting anger turn to hate. One of the things that help most is the contribution of some really awesome figures, Jews of conscience like Noam Chomsky, whose eloquence and knowledge of the inside details of US-Israel war crimes may be unmatched by any Gentile.
We all engage in tribalistic thinking a lot of the time. I think that is what the next century is going to be about, democracy and the Internet will break down parochial barriers. It is certainly an enduring achievement of the Jewish nation that they hit on monotheism, but as with many ideas, the first version is usually not the last word on the subject. Judaism remained exclusive and thus lost the chance to become a world religion. According to the Koran, the Jews went wrong when they did not recognize the later prophets, Jesus, who was one of their own, nor Mohamed. But the Moslems don’t say the Jews killed Christ, and have never conducted pogroms. If more people thought about Judaism, Christianity and Islam ecumenically, as three versions of one teaching, as the Koran has it, we could have one secular democracy covering the entire territory of Palestine, not a conflict zone that destabilizes the entire region. A pluralistic Israel would be worthy of our support, and of its neighbors. Islam enjoins peace as far as possible, but does call on us to fight for justice in distress against oppressors, whether they be Jews, Gentiles or *hypocritical Muslims (See the footnote).
The main Semitic people and language is the Arab one. The Palestinians are largely Semitic Arabs, although also descended obviously from the other Mediterranean peoples that preceded them there. I am not an expert but it seems obvious to me, from the length of time spent in Europe and even their looks, that many European Jews are less Semitic than Caucasian. If the Jewish colonists are overall less Semitic than the Arab Palestinians, Israel works out to be an anti-Semitic state. This assertion is meant to be thought-provoking, even if it makes the odd Zionist splutter with rage.
Of course “anti-semitism” has been a handy label for what we might more accurately call judeophobia. The German judeophobes were forerunners of today’s xenophobes and turcophobes, they were no friends of Arabia. Even the fact that our definition of anti-semitism ignores the Arabs is one of innumerable indications of how strong ignorance and prejudice about Arabs and Islam has been and still is, ever since the pope refused to reply to Mohamed’s ecumenical letter in the 7th century, until sending the Crusaders in the 12th, not to mention the colonialization of Palestine as European colonialism was ending elsewhere, as if the people who invented the zero were zeroes themselves. At any rate, it is ludicrous to refer to Arabs as anti-semites, so it is time for an update of the English language here, as in so many areas relating to the contributions of Islam and the Arabic world.
It seems that Zionism was actually dreamed up by the Anglicans a few hundred years ago as a strategy for ridding England of the Jews – ethnic cleansing by emigration. In the 19th century this dovetailed with Britain’s imperial strategy of dividing the Arab world in two by implanting a Jewish wedge in Palestine. As Britain was withdrawing from its empire, that aim lost its meaning, but there were the Holocaust refugees and it seemed too late to reverse the process. Then the US adopted the mess, as we did once for France, too, swearing by South Vietnam’s right to exist. For severely destabilizing the Arab world, the wedge still works like a charm.
The hoax I am talking about is something at once obvious and invisible, subtle because we have been so programmed to be blind to it, that it takes an effort of mental concentration to grasp it. We are so accustomed to congratulating ourselves on supporting the Jewish people’s right to a state that we forget that 1. we did almost nothing in our power to help Jews escape from the holocaust in the 1930’s, that was the America First and the plague on both houses era – and 2. we sponsor them in perpetrating many of the same injustices they suffered, on the innocent people of Palestine. We take the credit for saving Jews while we were really accomplices in their destruction, and blame the Arabs for anti-Semitism while asking them to make the sacrifice for Europe’s war crimes – whereby we have put the Jews, too, in a permanently precarious position. That is a bitter hoax, and not an idea easy to get over to a self-satisfied polity.
Part of the irony is the many parallels between Zionism and Nazism – the mistreatment of so-called subhuman people, their containment in camps, the use of Gestapo tactics to drive them out, the blaming of the victim for his own wounds – as in the repeated canard blaming Palestinian parents for Israel’s murder of their children. Israel even has a weird habit of electing terrorist killers to the post of prime minister. In fact, Israel violates so many of our values that her enemies don’t know which epithet to use first – colonialist, racist, militaristic, oppressive or what. This is not to take history out of context. I am convinced that were it not for the Holocaust this could not have happened, I understand for instance that the Zionist terrorist Stern Gang learned their brutal tactics from the Nazis and the struggle to survive in the Warsaw Ghetto. But I disagree with this huge inability to understand that two wrongs don’t make a right, they really make three wrongs, including this hypocritical hoax.
On these lines, if I may return to religious debate, I think the Jewish idea of an eye for an eye is very atavistic. It is revenge, not justice. Christianity taught about defusing violence, Islam about tolerance, while Israel practices not just one but ten blows for one. That is not even revenge, it is escalation and aggression on a grotesque scale. It is yet another page taken from the Nazis, who bombed villages every time a soldier was booby-trapped.
The dilemma of Zionism was its conflicting goals – to have a safe homeland, and to have its ancient shrines. The safe homeland could easily have been bought in some under populated place, it was the religious element which held the day for a return to Jerusalem. The contradiction has led to today’s system of gerrymandering apartheid to preserve borders with a Jewish majority. To have their cake and eat it too, the Zionists resorted to the expedient of claiming the Palestinians didn’t exist. But the Palestinians have inconveniently declined to dry up and blow away.
A theocratic democracy is a self-contradiction. Israel and the US would be best served by coming around to secular pluralism rather than trying to prolong such a fatally flawed anachronism in a world that is rapidly outgrowing it.
Muslims also have their religious feeling. There is a legend that the faith that loses its hold on a part of Jerusalem will die out. Apparently few Christians are worried about this, but something like it may be behind the uproar following the Sharon promenade. Or was the reason for his provocation the discovery of gas off the Gaza strip on Sept. 27?
The salient problem is that Israeli is steadily taking more and more land. Settlement continues even now, although it is against the laws of war to settle civilians on occupied territory. Israel speaks with many contradicting voices, but the facts on the ground speak in unison of aggression, oppression, and phased genocide.
If our media campaign and the demonstrations of the youth do not take effect on America’s conscience, it means only money talks, and in coming years legal remedies should evolve to the point where Israel, the US and Britain will pay trillions in reparations for the war crimes in Palestine.
Dr. Mathis does try to be objective, yet he falls back on knee-jerk ADL tactics by liberally using the terms libel and smear for my piece. This is massively missing the point. Those verbal scarecrows are among the casualties of Barak’s “rubber” bullets. A number of dovish Israeli commentators, viz. Haaretz, and American Jewish contributors, have realized that Israel has lost the moral high ground. Some orthodox rabbis even call Israel the Golden Calf and a “Satanic heresy” that will bring destruction on the Jewish nation. They accuse Zionists of abetting the Nazi holocaust to achieve their aim.
We are not against the the Jews. The Jewish peace movement is our most valuable ally in the struggle. I have stood up for the Jews against the anti-semites all my life, and still have no use for bigotry. But there is a storm wind of change here. Israel has gone so far it has revealed itself as a fascist regime. I am not writing an academic treatise now, I am waging propaganda warfare against mass murderers, and all is fair in love and war. You try to exact a price for aggression from the enemy with the weapons you have, and if the truth hurts, then that is the best weapon. As for the snivelers at the ADL, I hope the day when you might be blacklisted for calling one of them rude for being rude like anybody else, while it is open season on shooting defenceless families in their homes because they are Arabs, is coming to an end.
If it isn’t, we can toss our politically correct American story books in the trash can, for my vote.
But I am optimistic. Dr. Mathis’ admonition to hire a fact-checker is quaintly outdated, when anyone with an Internet connection has encyclopedic knowledge at their fingertips. The fog of lies that Israel wrapped herself in can’t hold up long under the withering glare of the Internet.
* From the Quran. Sura 4, verse 75
Mr. John-Paul Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)