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Please, Dad, Tell Me: How Do I Stop Being Complicit?
April 10, 2002 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Please, Dad, Tell Me: How Do I Stop Being Complicit? I actually came across this in another thread (props to cell divide), but I think it's worth it's own discussion. As a 30-year-old American Jew, this essay completely echoes the exasperation I feel whenever I have a "discussion" (read:argument) with someone of my parents' generation about the Middle East Conflict. It's true that my generation, in America, has never seen widescale Jewish hatred in our lifetime, but has that made us blind or allowed us to gain a better perspective on Israel?
posted by mkultra (56 comments total)

 
It's true. I constantly argue with my mother about this. She just returned from Pesach in Israel and the first thing she said was, "say what you want, but Sharon's offensive stopped the bombers" - which, as of yesterday, is completely untrue. I understand her anger and what fuels it, but I've tried very, very hard for my entire life to keep from being pulled into that hateful attitude. I am sure it makes everything a lot easier - no more self-doubt, no more liberal guilt - but I don't want to sell out to mainstream conservative Jewishness*. I think that it's given me a better perspective on Israel; I think a critical attitude always does that. It's also made me a black sheep at seders, especially when I bring up how stupid my brother is for selling his soul to Aish and becoming a black-hat in Jerusalem. The rest of the family isn't so happy about that, being otherwise-liberal educated Jews, but they see this Aliyah as a fulfillment of some kid of twisted "duty" to the culture. I'm scared for all my family over there - scared for their safety and scared that they will all allow themselves to become the racists that have plagued us for so long.

* not to be confused with Conservative Judaism :).
posted by luriete at 11:19 AM on April 10, 2002


I too grew up with that attitude from one side of my family, I think it can be most immediately traced back to the wars Israel fought from 1947-1973; every time the survival of the country was in danger by armies from every direction.

Now it is difficult for many to see that the extremists, emboldended by military victory, are trying to expand Israel at the expense of a civilian population. In order to maintain this, equal doses of oppressive military rule and dehumanization must be built up. It is a lot easier to justify the subjugation of a people if they are seen as somehow not human... which as Luriete points out has been the anti-semite's guiding light for centuries.
posted by cell divide at 11:24 AM on April 10, 2002


Me too. My parents pretty much automatically support everything the Israeli government does, no matter how horrendous. They fail to grant any legitimacy to the Palestinians, and fail to acknowledge their suffering. And they are always bringing up the subject in conversation-- not wanting to have arguments that will ruin my relationship with them, I simply ask them to change the subject whenever they start talking about Israel.
For my part, as a (non-religious) Jew I feel a heavier sense of responsibility and horror when it comes to Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, than I do in regard to other, equally horrific things happening elsewhere in the world.
posted by Rebis at 12:05 PM on April 10, 2002


If a piece appears in Common Dreams you can tell in advance what position it is going to take, right?
I am a Jew and I know the many things Israel has done that are terrible. On the other hand, I read Arab sources, see lists of what gets taught and not taught in Arab school (West Bank), and I have a previous record to go on as to what Israelis are fearful of.
IOf Israel is to get out of West Bank, then you first need a peace accord. All nations require this before giving back land taken in war. (unless for tactical reasons.)
Last peace talk, Arafat walked away from table, still unable to accept the fact that some 4 million Palestinians (Malthusian) want toe Right to return though 750 thousand left. Inb a countrey of 6 million, one million of whom are Arabs, does this make sense if you want to remain what you had been--a Jewish state though you need not be religious or even Jewish to live there?
Listen to your parents. Then shift through what they say. And then be your own person. And you too can count a slim piece in Common Sense as a "publication" for your resume.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on April 10, 2002


If a piece appears in Common Dreams you can tell in advance what position it is going to take, right?
I am a Jew and I know the many things Israel has done that are terrible. On the other hand, I read Arab sources, see lists of what gets taught and not taught in Arab school (West Bank), and I have a previous record to go on as to what Israelis are fearful of.
IOf Israel is to get out of West Bank, then you first need a peace accord. All nations require this before giving back land taken in war. (unless for tactical reasons.)
Last peace talk, Arafat walked away from table, still unable to accept the fact that some 4 million Palestinians (Malthusian) want toe Right to return though 750 thousand left. Inb a countrey of 6 million, one million of whom are Arabs, does this make sense if you want to remain what you had been--a Jewish state though you need not be religious or even Jewish to live there?
Listen to your parents. Then shift through what they say. And then be your own person. And you too can count a slim piece in Common Sense as a "publication" for your resume.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on April 10, 2002


If a piece appears in Common Dreams you can tell in advance what position it is going to take, right?
I am a Jew and I know the many things Israel has done that are terrible. On the other hand, I read Arab sources, see lists of what gets taught and not taught in Arab school (West Bank), and I have a previous record to go on as to what Israelis are fearful of.
IOf Israel is to get out of West Bank, then you first need a peace accord. All nations require this before giving back land taken in war. (unless for tactical reasons.)
Last peace talk, Arafat walked away from table, still unable to accept the fact that some 4 million Palestinians (Malthusian) want toe Right to return though 750 thousand left. Inb a countrey of 6 million, one million of whom are Arabs, does this make sense if you want to remain what you had been--a Jewish state though you need not be religious or even Jewish to live there?
Listen to your parents. Then shift through what they say. And then be your own person. And you too can count a slim piece in Common Sense as a "publication" for your resume.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on April 10, 2002


I remember my father being totally enraged because I didn't support Israel, and this was more than 15 years ago. Whatever the current rights and wrongs on each side, let's not forget that Israel was established by taking land away from its indigenous people. Yes, I know there were agreements with them, but we know just how well those are observed by all colonial peoples. I'm not sure how a religious justification (the Promised Land) is any different from a political one (Manifest Destiny). Of course, this further confuses the argument over whether one can be against Israel's position without being anti-semitic.

Personally, I can't be bothered with anti-semitism. I see all religion as potentially divisive and prone to violence against others.
posted by gordian knot at 12:22 PM on April 10, 2002


I understand the way a lot of people from the older generations feel. I spent a summer a few years back doing volunteer work for the Israeli defense force, and ever since them I have been overwhelmed with blind patriotism for the country, much the way a lot of people are feeling about American post 9/11. I know that a lot of what happens in the wars is horrific, but I also have a strong sense of just what is being fought for and how important it is.
I had a very enlightening seder with a group of Israeli adults, during which they talked a lot about the incredible sympathy they feel for the Palestinians and their disapproval for some of the actions of the IDF over the years. Realizing that it is possible to be fiercely patriotic and also criticize the decisions of your government and military was a real eye-opener.
posted by bonheur at 12:23 PM on April 10, 2002


I think being American Jews who have not experienced widespread hatred has made us very unsuspecting towards anti-semitism. I believe now is a time to be scared, but we are too blind to see it. Synagogues are being burned in France as a lot of the underground hatred still alive from WW2 is starting to resurface.
It is very easy to criticize Israel from what is seen on the news, but you have to trust that Sharon and the Israeli people know what they're doing. When a cat is cornered, it will slash out and that's what Israel is doing. You may not view it as self defense since the Palestinians do not have the fire power that the Israeli army does, but it is important for Israel to let the world, especially the Middle East, know that it is not a punching bag. Israel's very existence is threatened, and Israel must show that it has no vulnerabilities, whether or not this is a charade.
With the present situation, Israel is being singled out towards its treatment of the Palestinians. Egypt, the same country that cut off diplomatic ties with Israel becuase of the way the Palestinians are being treated, will not let the Palestinians in their country go to school (sorry i don't have a link). Furthermore, the reason there are so many Palestinians in the West Bank is that Kuwaiit kicked them out after the Gulf War. Nobody said a word when Saddam tried to wipe out the Kurds. The double standards are overwhelming and in my view, the only people being complicit are the people not noticing the world's lack of support for Israel.
posted by Werd7 at 12:27 PM on April 10, 2002


I am sure it all looks so clear from your ivory towers.

Those who forget the past.......

You may disagree with your parents/elders on this, but think of all they may have seen in their lifetime, and try to understand why they feel the way they do.
posted by a3matrix at 12:40 PM on April 10, 2002


What is 'seder'?
posted by justlooking at 12:41 PM on April 10, 2002


Seder is the traditional Passover (Pesach) meal.
posted by luriete at 12:54 PM on April 10, 2002


i fear i'm gonna get flamed big time for this but if i offend, please accept my apology in advance. i admit my ignorance regarding the topic and this is why i'm posting. if anyone has an opinion (or a link to an opinion) with the "facts," i would appreciate it. a friend explained it to me like this.

1. the Jews left Israel long ago. by choice.
2. the Palestinians moved into this "unoccupied" land.
3. after wwi, various gov'ts "banded together" and "gave" Israel back to the Jews, by way of apology for the holocaust.
4. the fact that the Palestinians now called this land home seemed to have been, um, forgotten.
5. they've been fighting ever since.

now, i know that this is WAY simplistic. however, is this the gist of things?

i understand the conflict no better than i understand what the IRA was all about. (ie not in the slightest.)

any info apprecaited.
posted by dobbs at 1:07 PM on April 10, 2002


to Gordion Knot--read history. Israel was NOT taken from indiginous people. It was a huge tract of land governed by the Turks, with Jews and Arabs living in the area. The Brits took it from the Turks. The Brits then turned it over to the UN, recommending what got voted into being (by huge vote): that there should be two states (there was no state there previously), and then there was an Israeli State. And the Arabs in the area said NO. And they invaded the new Jewish stateand proclaimed that they would exterminate the Jews. Three wars later, and now they want the state they might have had which would have been significantly better than the size of the state they may end up with.
America had "indiginous people" but you now occupy it, right? (assuming you are American). Should Israel give it back to the Brits and the Brits to the Turks? How long do you think Jordan has been a country?
posted by Postroad at 1:12 PM on April 10, 2002


I've never seen so many consecutive comments beginning with 'I'.

As for me, I'm not sure I understand what the relevant alternative is here. Israel has clearly attempted to create peace; it was Arafat that left the table. Allowing the terrorists to continue bombing them (which they did, effectively -- idling their army for years) didn't create a better environment for peace, it created a worse one.

Older generations have suffered through peaks and troughs of optimism. Any number of times it looked like there might be hope for peace, and any number of times Palestinian terrorists destroyed it.

And the thing is, they haven't given up. I haven't heard any Israel supporter argue seriously for the destruction of any Arab population (though, sadly, one can't say the same for the other side). Rather, they want to destroy the terrorists. They've tried waiting them out, they've tried negotiating.

How long before patience becomes folly? How can you blame an older, wounded generation for lacking the still-optimistic idealism of its children?
posted by mattpfeff at 1:13 PM on April 10, 2002


These poor kids writing in have gone off to school and gotten a $100,000 education in cultural relativism and this is the result. They absolutely cannot understand that there is such a thing as good and evil...it's all relative, you see. That is why Bush's use of the term "evil" is a masterpiece.
posted by mikegre at 1:25 PM on April 10, 2002


oh please, mikegre...cultural relativism? talk about beating the rotting flesh off the dead horse.
posted by y2karl at 1:33 PM on April 10, 2002


For a working definition of evil, I just ran across this in my last post--I don't recall it from context--Evil according to Jack Vance:

What is an evil man? The man is evil who coerces obedience to his private ends, destroys beauty, produces pain, extinguishes life.

According to that definition, there's enough evil to go around. Good vs. Evil is fine for propaganda but it's a complex world out there, and we're all thinking people here, at least, part of the time...
posted by y2karl at 1:40 PM on April 10, 2002


Here, for some backgroun, from a non-Jew, non-Arab, a Middle East for well Metafilerites. Read unbiased historians, who might well be neither Israelis (Jews) or Arabs...there are many out there. But quickly,
"Nationhood and Jerusalem. Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years before the rise of Islam.
2. Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
3. Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 B.C.E., the Jews have had dominion over the land for one thousand years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.
4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 C.E. lasted no more than 22 years.
5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.
6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.
8. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.
9. Arab and Jewish Refugees: In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.
10. The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.
11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.
12. Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.
13. The Arab - Israeli Conflict: The Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.
14. The P.L.O.'s Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land,
autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them.
15. Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and made accessible to people of all faiths.
16. The U.N. Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.
17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.
18. The U.N. was silent while 58 Jerusalem Synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.
19. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
20. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
posted by Postroad at 1:54 PM on April 10, 2002


I find being a Jew to be very difficult at a time like this. On the one hand, historically, Jews have been society's outcasts. And I think the recent surge in European anti-semitism shows that the reasons for this are still around, and have merely been lying dormant. So when confronted by the extreme anti-semitism that seems to be expressed by Arabs in the Middle East, Jews fight back. By the same token, Palestinians have been treated as inferiors in Israel since the get go. Social pariahs also, forced to live in refugee camps (Shtettles?), while the Israeli government pays Jews to settle in their land. This is a dilemma for me morally. Freedom for some, oppression for others. But what really gets me going, what makes me forget any of these religious, or political issues is that civillians are being targeted by both sides. This is totally unacceptable. I think most people would be content if they could live their lives without fear of being shot or blown up on a daily basis.

A fact that also really gets me if the disparity between the number of Israelis killed and the number of Palestinians. It is so skewed. Shockingly, in older battles, the disparity was even greater, with way more Palestinians being killed than Israelis. One reason this recent spate of violence has been so bad is the ration of Pestinians killed versus Israelis is like 3 to 1.
posted by bob bisquick at 1:58 PM on April 10, 2002


I don't believe terrorism is ever justified, but noneso more than in retailiation for the wrongs of an earlier generation.

Were there moral and legal injustices committed against indigenous people as a direct result of the Israeli occupation of Palestine after WWII? Absolutely. However --

- Nobody in their right mind would tolerate a Jewish leader advocating the extermination of Germany, circa 2002, in retailiation for the acts of Germany, circa 1942. The atrocities of the Holocaust dwarfed anything that went on during the Israeli war for independence.

- Nobody in their right mind would tolerate a Native American leader advocating the extermination of Americans of European origin, circa 2002, in retaliation for the acts of their ancestors circa 1822. The atrocities committed by American settlers far outweighed Israeli persecution of the native Arab population.

So how come Palestinian suicide bombing is "discussed" and "explored" in "the context of our time?" As if this is actually a measured, reasonable response to something that doesn't come close to rising to the level of the worst of the ethnic persecution practiced in the last half millennium?
posted by PrinceValium at 2:09 PM on April 10, 2002


PostRoad: Um.....some of what you said is specious, and some of it is outright disingenuous....

Tradition says that God gave Abraham the land. His children left it. They came back to find it occupied. They took it back. They got hauled off. They came back. They got hauled off again. They came back. They got conquered. They got mixed with other peoples. Genetic studies of the people in the area show almost NO difference between Arabs and Jews. There are even Arabs with the signature DNA of Levites.

Who really owns the land now? It's not easy to say.

Muslims originally prayed facing Jerusalem, but that changed because of the attitudes of some of the Jews toward Mohammed. He reoriented towards Mecca afterwards. The Medina period was an interesting one. It is said that Mohammed came to Jerusalem, and ascended into heaven to talk with God.

The rest....well, you do have valid points, but let's keep them honest so they have greater impact, k?
posted by dwivian at 2:14 PM on April 10, 2002


Postroad, please link your source concerning the history of Israel.
posted by Mach3avelli at 2:17 PM on April 10, 2002


Muslims do not pray with their backs toward Jerusalem. They pray with their heads toward Mecca. If Jerusalem were a point on a line between the individual and Mecca, the individual would be facing Jerusalem as well as Mecca when praying.
posted by luriete at 2:23 PM on April 10, 2002


Postroad you and others have been smacked down on this site numerous times for publishing those exact same 'facts' which come straight out of Zionist propaganda 101, and it isn't even the current version at that. You are doing nothing but proving your own ignorance and unwillingness to face reality (let alone Mecca or Jerusalem) by copying and pasting 'facts' our of some hoary old email you got from B'nai Brith in 1994.

You are the perfect example of why the older generation is unable to make peace. You are dependent on lies and falsehoods to make your point, and use distorted history and a sense of fear and paranoia to justify Israel's clearly illegal and immoral behavior. Note, you are unable to apologize and own up for for Israel's acts (which are quite clearly documented by the Israeli groups, the UN, the US State Department and many unaligned groups) so you attempt to blame the whole thing on history, pretend Palestinians don't exist, and otherwise do everything possible to avoid the central issue which 90% of people on both sides agree is the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
posted by cell divide at 2:57 PM on April 10, 2002


Good points all around, but here's something else to consider- I don't think any of us, even those (myself) included who find Israel's reaction to this violence troubling, are excusing violence by the Palestinians.

What, however, should be the "proper" response by the Israelis to stem the violence? And, more importantly, once this goal is accomplished- what then?
posted by mkultra at 3:03 PM on April 10, 2002


20 voices of Palestinians, Israelis, and outsiders.

A really great compendium of human voices living through this awful situation.
posted by cell divide at 3:20 PM on April 10, 2002


I like the 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica
Although it has biases of its own, 20th century events do not influence it. Its article on Palestine is fascinating, despite the scanning job:
"Palestine is essentially a land of small divisions, and its configuration does not fit it to form a separate entity; it has never belonged to one nation and probably never will."
posted by quercus at 3:22 PM on April 10, 2002


dobbs: nah, not really. Your friend has oversimplified some things, and got others flat-out wrong. (Eg the holocaust occurred during WWII, not WWI).

- Jews leave Israel around fall of Roman Empire. Small communities in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed etc persist continuously, but Jews were a small minority for most of the post-Roman period.
- the land's never been unoccupied by _anyone_.
- European Jews started buying land in what at that point was the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century, as Zionism became a movement
- after WWI, the chunk of the Ottoman Empire that includes present day Israel and Jordan became the British Mandate, with growing Jewish enclaves.
- Jewish land purchasing increases.
- Various plans (eg Balfour proposal) to give Jews a chunk of the British mandate are mooted but not implemented. Meanwhile local Arabs begin to mobilise, spurred on by the virulently Jew-hating Mufti of Jerusalem. Intermittent fighting, massacres ensue, but Jewish immigration increases.
- WWII. Holocaust.
- Jews establish State of Israel amid guerilla warfare with Arabs and British. Many Arabs flee.
- a conflict of fluctuating bloodiness between the new State, refugees, and surrounding nations begins and has never really stopped.

So nobody gave Israel to Jews: the Jews established there pre-WWII fought to consolidate what they had acquired already, and once the British rolled over, no other outside power tried to stop them. You can argue about why.

Getting back on topic, yeah, I was raised to think "Israel, right or wrong". I don't worry about being "complicit" though. I can be disgusted with Sharon, believe that the settlements should never have happened, and that Israel's treatment of its own Arabs and those in the occupied territories has been morally wrong and politically foolish, and yet also think that Arafat is a evil, corrupt terrorist, attacks on civilians are wrong, Hamas will never be satisfied until Israel ceases to exist, etc.

This is a complicated situation, with many parties, motivations, levels of trust and commitment, and it's ok to have an equally complex, equivocal view of it. I try hard to renounce my tribal affiliations and call them as I see them. The IDF can do wrong, Israeli policy can be wrong, Sharon can be an evil manipulator. I also don't want my sister and her new baby blown up in the supermarket.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:28 PM on April 10, 2002


It's not as simple as saying "the UN gave the jews the land even though somebody else already lived there"; it's more accurate to say that the UN divided the areas that were predominantly Jewish and Arab into two different states. Israel later took more territory from neighbors in wars, hence the term "occupied territories."

The questions I have are: if Arrafat is in charge of the Palestinian blow-themselves-up brigades, and he kept telling them to go blow themselves up even when he was talking about peace with the Israelis, why would they continue negotiating with him? If he's not in charge of them, why is anybody negotiating with him?

If Arrafat isn't the right person to be negotiating with, who is?
posted by hob at 3:51 PM on April 10, 2002


The most moderate of Palestinian / Arab positions insists upon the "right of return," and a judenfrei Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterannean is at least as common a position. The former promises an inevitable destruction of Israeli civil and religious society; the latter a straightforward genocide.

How, then, can Israelis treat Palestinians as anything except enemies to be defeated? If the range of Palestinian opinion and policy regarding Israel were the same as the range of Canadian opinion and policy regarding the United States, and suicide bombers regularly blew up buses and holiday dinners in Detroit and Seattle, can you possibly imagine that American tanks wouldn't have long since occupied Toronto and Vancouver?

Unless and until a truly moderate Palestinian position is adopted (surpressing suicide bombers effectively, abandoning the right of return), there simply is no one the Israelis can negotiate with unless by "negotiation" one simply means dithering over the terms of one's own destruction.

As for American Jews who support the current Palestinian regimes, albeit mouthing denunciations of suicide bombings, I can only wonder at the astonishing scope of their naivete. Spend a little time outside of the big coastal cities and Chicago (or just some time in many neighborhoods within them) and you'll quickly find out how precarious is the position of Jews in our society ... supporting Palestinians supports a hatred of Jews which is very close to the surface here at home.

The lesson of the Holocaust was not "Jews must be altruistic defenders of mankind," but that "Jews must be zealous and unsentimental defenders of themselves against all adversaries, regardless of their guise or the apparent sympathy of their cause."
posted by MattD at 4:07 PM on April 10, 2002


On the main point, tho, I'll admit to being stuck here: I was raised to believe that Israel were the good guys and the Arabs were the bad guys in the conflict out there. While non-jewish, I come from a relatively bookish Christian family, who are all essentially pro-jews and pro-Israel.

Where it all falls down for me is in the question of religion in government. I'm a pretty firm believer in the seperation of the two, and I consistantly vote against anything that smacks of enforced or "sanctioned" religion anywhere even tho I'm a practicing Christian.

So, how does this stack up with the idea of a Jewish state? I mean, how do I say, sure, it's fine for the Jews to have a religiously-founded state, it's a good thing, but for Baptists or Muslims to do it it's bad?

Israel's arguments against a Paelstinian right-of-return sound a lot like they're afraid that if they let too many Arabs into their democracy they'll vote all the Jews out of office and put in Arabs and there'll be no more Jewish state. But... is a mono-culture like that really compatible with the idea of a democracy anyhow? And if Jewishness is more important than Democracy/Representation/Freedom/Equality there... am I on the right side?
posted by hob at 4:08 PM on April 10, 2002


quercus, that link is fascinating.
posted by mrbula at 4:11 PM on April 10, 2002


MattD: As for American Jews who support the current Palestinian regimes, albeit mouthing denunciations of suicide bombings, I can only wonder at the astonishing scope of their naivete. Spend a little time outside of the big coastal cities and Chicago (or just some time in many neighborhoods within them) and you'll quickly find out how precarious is the position of Jews in our society ... supporting Palestinians supports a hatred of Jews which is very close to the surface here at home.

I've traveled and lived all over the U.S. and the world, including Israel, and that doesn't keep me from believing that Israelis shouldn't kill Palestinian civilians, or that large chunks of land shouldn't be given for peace, regardless of history.

The lesson of the Holocaust was not "Jews must be altruistic defenders of mankind," but that "Jews must be zealous and unsentimental defenders of themselves against all adversaries, regardless of their guise or the apparent sympathy of their cause."

Yes, that's the lesson that best reflects the elitist "chosen people" attitude that has informed the religion since the beginning of time. Some of us choose to draw a lesson based on an ideology more in line with the most recent millenium.
posted by bingo at 4:43 PM on April 10, 2002


From the article:

I believe that Jews are being used by an American administration to accomplish its own ends, ends that have
nothing to do with the ideals of Jews.


But, what the fuck? I'm normally all about America bashing but this is just ridiculous. If anything, Jewish actions are harming the current presidents goals.

How, then, can Israelis treat Palestinians as anything except enemies to be defeated?

The problem here, is that while you can treat certain organizations and individuals as such, claming that "Palestinians" should be treated as enemies is a gross generalization. America didn't go to war with "Afghanis" they went to war with "al Queda". Anyone claming that "The Palestinians" should be treated as enemies is incapable of rational thought and does not deserve to be treated as a human being.
posted by delmoi at 5:12 PM on April 10, 2002


I agree with MattD's comments in some ways, however I think the the path to preservation of the Jewish state is in defending roughly the 1967 borders, and not this religious adventurism that hurts everyone. To me, Sharon's policies are those that result in mutual destruction, not preservation.

I do find it comedic when Jews speak of the 'insanity' and 'immoderation' of Palestinians wanting the 'right of return' to the lands they lost 50 years ago, and in the next sentance affirm Israel's absolute legitimacy over land that was resettled by Jews returning to Israel after 2,000 years.

What Palestinians say and want is very different from what they can get, to deny someone a place at the negotiating table because of their deepest dreams and hopes is to fundamentally misunderstand the concept of negotiation.

Israel is a great and special country with so much good-- virtually all of its pain and bad over the past 20 years have come from areas far beyond what is the functioning state. Specifically Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. In a way Israel is in a war for its existence, but not in the way Sharon means. It is a war for the soul of Israel as a content, stable, small, well-protected state, or one of a colonial occupier with designs on 'eretz israel'.
posted by cell divide at 5:18 PM on April 10, 2002


What Postroad said.

PS: That creep Walker is not unlike the author of this article.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:27 PM on April 10, 2002


(John Walker Lindh)
posted by ParisParamus at 5:28 PM on April 10, 2002


I think the the path to preservation of the Jewish state is in defending roughly the 1967 borders.

The terrorism started before 1967; and is concentrated in the pre-1967 borders. How naive to think they don't want all of Israel!
posted by ParisParamus at 5:30 PM on April 10, 2002


Here's my take on the current situation in Israel, speaking as a non-Jew (I'm Catholic), living in Ireland, Europe.

Full disclosure - I speak as someone who has a large number of family members who come from a part of Ireland (the North) that some would say is "occupied", namely by the United Kingdom (also called Britain). I also speak as someone who has had relatives assaulted, beaten and threatened with death by forces either governed from London, or by their allies in the North of Ireland. I include myself here. Finally, I speak as someone who has had family members assaulted, beaten, threatened or killed by terrorists on both the pro-British and pro-Irish divide.

A lot of this will probably get me flamed to the 9th circle of hell, however I think I'm being fair. Say what you will.

1. I judge Ariel Sharon by his lack of action in 1982 when the Phalangist allies of the IDF murdered innocent men women and children in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila, in Lebanon. The IDF (with Sharon as Israeli minister of defence) could have stopped them. But they didn't. Later, Sharon was sacked as defence minister, but not a whole more was done. Now, the same court that is trying Slobodan Milosevic is studying the facts to see if Sharon is either guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or if he is an accessory to either or both of said crimes. I think that speaks for itself.
It should be noted that Sharon sent the Israeli military into Lebanon without the permission of his fellow cabinet ministers, or his president. I think this also speaks for itself.

2. The people of Israel seems to have forgotten what the Nazis did in the 1930s and 1940s. I feel it's time they go to Yad Vashem, study what is to be found there, and compare it to what is going on in the Occupied Teritories - I think something can be learned by doing this. it should be noted that Nazi Germany had a policy of moving its people into territory it accquired. This policy was called Lebensraum (Living space). I find the similarity disturbing, to say the least.

3. I think Israel, as a supposedly democratic country, should know better than it currently appears to. Democracies do not send tanks into the streets. The last time I saw that happen, it was in Tianamen Square, Beijing, China in 1989, and China is not what you might call a democracy.

4. I think Yassir Arafat is foolish and naive. His biggest mistake was to walk away from the last round of peacetalks. If he is dead before the year 2002 passes, I will not be the least bit surprised. I do not believe he has failed to control, or indeed, controls terrorists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah or any other PLO-related terrorist group. I believe that he was naive to think he could control them in the first place - they were always controlled by those within the groups, or by those such as Syria, Iran etc etc.

6. It is time that the Jewish people in America spoke up to the powers that be in Washington DC that the level of US involvement, or rather, the type of US involvement in Israel is not what is desired. Although I know only a few people of the Jewish faith, none of them that I know of supports the current actions of the Israeli state, with the exception of two Israeli Jews.

5. It is high time that the American people in general woke up to what goes on in the world outside of their own. I derive this opinion from my time (almost 3 years) here on Metafilter, on Usenet, and finally, from speaking to a lot of American people both here in Ireland and abroad. Americans are not stupid people - their level of security is such that they feel there is no need to be aware of the outside world. This sentiment seems to have decreased since 9/11.

6. I do not support terrorism. I never have, and I never will. The use of broad military force against terrorism never works. The British Army tried it in 1971. A peace agreement that worked for both sides was only implemented in 1998. Think about that. The IRA made their second act of decommisioning just 3 days ago. The amount of weapons and explosive decomissioned was, to quote Canadian former general, and independent observer, "substantial". It should also be noted that the American who brokered the peace agreement here in 1998 was also sent to Israel to try and do the same for that country. I am uncertain as to what became of his attempts. This is a great shame - he is quite the diplomat. If he had not succeeded, I think Ireland would be in the same position as Israel is today.

Finally, someone I care about lives near to Tel Aviv. I hope she and her family get through this.
posted by tomcosgrave at 7:08 PM on April 10, 2002


1. the Jews left Israel long ago. by choice.
Actually, there have always been Jews living there.

2. the Palestinians moved into this "unoccupied" land.
Undefined non-Jews have also been there for centuries. Read some personal accounts of the area for insight as to the sparce inhabitation of the area. Thought various peoples scratched a living out of this area for centuries, no mass ever 'moved into' this area until the Jews.

3. after wwi, various gov'ts "banded together" and "gave" Israel back to the Jews, by way of apology for the holocaust.
The Jews deicided to populate a desolate land. And, yes, they had the blessing of countries glad to be rid of them.

4. the fact that the Palestinians now called this land home seemed to have been, um, forgotten.
Hardly forgotten. 'Right of return' is a major sticking point.

5. they've been fighting ever since.
Mostly true. With a few brief interludes. Until one side decided that they wanted more. (Take your pick...no excuses here.)
posted by HTuttle at 7:45 PM on April 10, 2002


These facts are not in dispute-I'll quote T. Friedman for convenience:

"In February 1982 the secular Syrian government of President Hafez al-Assad faced a mortal threat from Islamic extremists, who sought to topple the Assad regime. How did it respond? President Assad identified the rebellion as emanating from Syria's fourth-largest city — Hama — and he literally leveled it, pounding the fundamentalist neighborhoods with artillery for days. Once the guns fell silent, he plowed up the rubble and bulldozed it flat, into vast parking lots. Amnesty International estimated that 10,000 to 25,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed in the merciless crackdown. Syria has not had a Muslim extremist problem since."

Perhaps Israel should learn from its Arab neighbors. What grief did the world give Assad?
posted by quercus at 9:32 PM on April 10, 2002


quercus: Methinks the message of Friedman's column (in re to Islamist movements violently crushed by some Arab nations) is, "The problem doesn't go away, regardless." The shadow makes it presence felt again, no matter how hard you try to suppress it, etc. Come to think of it, you could pick up that message just by skimming the piece, already.
posted by raysmj at 9:56 PM on April 10, 2002


MattD said: The lesson of the Holocaust was not "Jews must be altruistic defenders of mankind," but that "Jews must be zealous and unsentimental defenders of themselves against all adversaries, regardless of their guise or the apparent sympathy of their cause."

Then bingo replied: Yes, that's the lesson that best reflects the elitist "chosen people" attitude that has informed the religion since the beginning of time. Some of us choose to draw a lesson based on an ideology more in line with the most recent millenium.

This is not about being "chosen" for anything but persecution. Jews have been driven from their homes all over Europe for centuries. Israel was founded under disputed and dubious circumstances, but the Jews fought and won the war. The world doesn't want the Jews around, so a Jewish state is created, and we're not welcome there either?

Israel is about the size of New Jersey. Standard disclaimer against horrible things the IDF has done, but man, Israel is just not asking that much to be allowed to exist in peace. Yes, I think the Palestinians should be allowed to exist in peace too.

I am an American Jew, but I've seen anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism (not quite the same; see someone's earlier post re: Arabs and Semitic blood) up close and it's not pretty. I don't know how much hate I've ducked with my light hair and eyes, but all it takes is one hard punch, metaphorical or otherwise, to wake you up to hate, and I'm wide awake.
posted by swerve at 10:04 PM on April 10, 2002


It has been very hard for me to keep a balanced view of the current conflict. The chant on the streets is always includes some variant of "Death to the Jews". Well, that means me. And my family. And my extended family. And quite a few people here who I agree and disagree with. I've met holocaust survivors, Nazi Germany is not ancient history. There can be no understanding of Israel without an understanding of the holocaust, the pogroms that lead up to the holocaust, and the despicable treatment of European Jewish refugees after WW2.

The refrain seems to be "Israel has gone too far", but I really don't see what other course of action they had left. Three different peace treaties has been abandoned by Arafat in the 11th hour. What should a government do when people are blowing themselves up in your restaurants and busses? Those organizing the suicide attacks are trying to (succeeding?) cultivate so general a racist hatred and distrust that the only hope for peace lies in complete segregation or elimination of one side. They're banking on the history of disinformation and distrust surrounding Jews to shift sympathy away from Israel. The civilized world can not allow for suicide bombing against civilians to be given any validity as a means to an end.

Why is it Jews pose such a threat? It might have something to do with the fact that the existence of Judaism is a constant reminder of the failings of the Christian and Islamic faiths. Jews do not believe that Jesus or Mohammed were prophets. Jews represent doubt. Living, breathing doubt.

Religious tolerance is an oxymoron.

Those who have never experienced anti-Jewish hatred are lucky. I'm 31 and have experienced bigotry and prejudice many times growing up in Southern California. When you're Jewish, it doesn't matter with whom your sympathies lie or whether you're religious or not. You were born Jewish and that's enough reason for a lot of people to hate you.
posted by joemaller at 10:16 PM on April 10, 2002


All day, since this thread started, I've been thinking about the words in the Haggadah that I read just a few days ago: "not one alone has risen up against us to destroy us, but rather in each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. "

And taking a long view, this is sadly true. This, bingo, is the sentiment that informs Matt's observation on the lessons to be learnt from the Holocaust. Elitism has nothing to do with it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:52 PM on April 10, 2002


i'm late to the thread, but i'd like to point you to the great organization called "not in my name", formed precisely in response to these issues, to the feeling that we as jews cannot possibly sit by as atrocities are carried out by "jews" rather than by "israelis", and as israelis make claims that they act for a collective "us" as jews, a collective that in practice excludes many of us (non-orthodox religious jews, non-religious jews, women, lesbian and gay jews, jews by choice, etc. etc. etc.)

organizations like not in my name, like jewish voice for peace, like b'tselem, like the new israel fund, like rabbis for human rights - those are the organizations that speak for me as a jew, not the israeli government.
posted by judith at 11:01 PM on April 10, 2002


Re: Matt D's comments. Ok, I'll play ball. The persecution that the Jews have suffered warrants the creation of Israel and the means used to defend the Jewish homeland. If we're all in agreement, then lets go all the way.

The Maori get the North Island.

Aborigines get NSW, at the very least.

The 50 states will be reduced by 20, to be divided among various Native American tribes according to their historical homelands. Canada should kick in some land as well, and South America will have to be severly redrawn.

France and Spain both give up land for the Basques

Northern Ireland is no longer part of GB

The Gypsies have been displaced more often than anyone else in Europe, its time for them to get a state.

Each of these groups, obviously, will need the ongoing billions in military and economic aid needed to secure their positions in their rightful lands.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg ...



The accusations of elitism have nothing to do with the right of the Jewish people to self presevation, but with the explicit or implied notion that there is something so singular in the suffering of the Jews as to make them a special case among all of the other persecuted groups in the world. By elevating the Holocaust to a position above every other horror and atrocity in modern history, the implication is that the lives of Jews are more valuable than the lives of every other group that has been simmilarly devastated by murder, agression, exile, and disenfranchisement, and thus their suffering deserves greater consideration and the subsequent measures taken to ensure their continued survival and prosperity.
posted by hipstertrash at 11:25 PM on April 10, 2002


Why is it Jews pose such a threat? It might have something to do with the fact that the existence of Judaism is a constant reminder of the failings of the Christian and Islamic faiths. Jews do not believe that Jesus or Mohammed were prophets. Jews represent doubt. Living, breathing doubt.

Hahaha. That's funny.

You were born Jewish and that's enough reason for a lot of people to hate you.

Well, as a Midwesterner, I have never known a single person to make a single anti-semetic statement in person. I'm sure there are a lot of anti-Jewish people in the Middle East. Maybe you shouldn't have tried to move there? I don't think that there is much real anti-Semitism in the US, but I don't think the present situation is helping that.

Before sept11th, when people in this country started actually paying attention and debating the mid-east, my opinion of Jewish people and Judaism was that, unlike Islam and Christianity it was a rather non-violent, positive religion. Now, I consider it to be as much a poison in the world as those two in general.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 PM on April 10, 2002


"In 336 BC King Philip was killed and Alexander ascended to the throne of Macedonia. Within the next twelve years Alexander conquered almost the entire known world of his era."

So all that land belongs to him. I knew it wasn't Israel's or the Palestinians.
posted by Zool at 11:54 PM on April 10, 2002


thanks to joe's spleen and harry tuttle for the info.

(the wwi was just a typo on my part. i'm ignorant. but not that ignorant. oopsy.)
posted by dobbs at 12:03 AM on April 11, 2002


hipstertrash...your comments on the elitist nature of the Jewish holocaust vs. all others is covered in excruciating detail in Ward Churchill's "A Little Matter of Genocide", a thorough and exhaustive recounting of Native American genocide.
I too was raised in the Midwest US, where racial hatred seemed reserved for blacks, then spent two decades in the deep south where it was equally shared with Hispanics. I don't doubt, though, that the coastal regions have higher incidence of hatred against Jews and Orientals, where populations have higher concentration. Apparently we Americans prefer to hate based on proximity.
We are faced with a seemingly unanswerable question. The only solution I can envision would be the Saudis giving up land for a Palestinian state including Mecca, which is probably impossible, since I think Mecca is holy to most Saudis also. Even then, it would be temporary...for now there are many Arabs who indeed see the Judenfrei solution as the only one. But a generation can make a huge amount of difference--that's how this thread got started. If we can manage to keep any semblance of peace by any means for another generation, perhaps that generation can find a way past the hate. It has happened in my lifetime in the US; I have seen huge sway in the prejudice against blacks over the past three decades.
So I guess my response is we must work for peace today, and hope for peace tomorrow. It's encouraging that so many of Israeli heritage see that Sharon's persecution of innocent Palestinians (non-bombers, non-racists) for what it is--merely the adding of gasoline to the already-burning fire, further delaying any possibility for real peace.
posted by Corky at 3:30 AM on April 11, 2002


corky: Hispanics have only started moving to the Deep South in really significant numbers in the past decade or less, and if they faced that much discrimination, I doubt they'd keep coming en masse to Miss., Alabama, Georgia, etc., which aren't as close to the Mexican border as Texas or California, say. What part of the "Deep South" are you talking about, exactly?
posted by raysmj at 7:25 AM on April 11, 2002


The Gypsies have been displaced more often than anyone else in Europe, its time for them to get a state.

Europe's Gypsies lobby for nation status(!)

also france is sort of doing it with corsica :)
posted by kliuless at 7:39 AM on April 11, 2002


raysmj: good eye for the details! my exposure was primarily Dallas Texas, though i was born in Mississippi. Dallas is often erroneously called the Southwest even though it's in the East half of the country.
You are right, in that time frame racial hatred in MS, AL, GA, TN, KY, etc was primarily targeting blacks. However, Texans have long abused Hispanics, and they continued to arrive in droves for the cash to be made compared to home, even though some certainly must have known that racism would await them.
posted by Corky at 7:24 PM on April 12, 2002


i dunno why, but i associate texas with india. i guess cuz of the triangle-like shape (even though texas' is political and india's is geographic). but i was just thinking if india is a subcontinent or south asia, texas could be subamerica! south america wouldn't work obviously :)
posted by kliuless at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2002


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