Friday, June 21, 2013

I Believe In Human Rights, In Peace and In Equality

Social media brings you into contact with all sorts of people. My own Zionism, my Israeli and Jewish heritage, and my passion for defending Israel has put me in contact with many Israelis and Zionists around the globe and it's been a wonderful experience. I'm using Hebrew more, gaining language skills I thought I'd never gain until I made aliya, and meeting some fantastic people in the process. (My Hebrew is still awful, just not as awful.) I have plans to turn some online friendships into real life ones as part of a group trip to Israel in 2014 if everything works out as I hope. For the most part, it's all good.

Over the years, as the peace process has failed and it became increasingly obvious to me that the current Palestinian leadership has no interest in peace at all my politics have drifted to the right somewhat when it comes to Israel. One thing interacting on Facebook has taught me is that I may now be more of a centrist than a leftist, but I still can't support the Israeli right or right wing Jews who are often, as Alan Dershowitz put it in his book "The Case For Peace," more Israeli than the Israelis.

Those who hate Israel and the Jewish people try to portray us as racist monsters who hate the Arabs. In my experience there are such people, but they are a truly tiny minority of Jewish and Israeli voices. Most Jews, Zionists, Israelis I know are tolerant people who simply want the right to live in peace in our homeland.

This is my response to a right-wing person who identified as a Sephardic Jew who, as it happens, isn't Israeli. Her views include the idea that Arabs don't belong in Israel or the territories and that Palestinians "don't exist" as a people. I've edited several of my posts from a discussion together, removed names, and reordered it a bit to make a coherent whole.

Call them Arabs instead of Palestinians and they do belong. 80% of the Arab population in 1948 was first generation. They arrived in the first half of the last century. Some of the other 20% had been in what is now Israel (including Judea and Samaria) for centuries. You are correct that they didn't have a national identity and saw themselves as Syrian, but Israel was part of Southern Syria under the Ottoman Empire. Those people have every bit as much right to their homes, which they've now lived in for generations, as we do.

Second, human rights apply to all human beings, even despicable ones. I don't have to respect terrorists. I do have to respect the rights of all people, even those I don't like. Israel is a democracy and a state for all it's people. Last I checked Arabs have equal rights under Israeli law. If you annex all of Judea and Samaria those rights will apply to the Palestinian Arabs there, who will suddenly be a huge voting bloc. For me the prime consideration is Israel's security but that has to be balanced against maintaining Israel as a Jewish democracy which respects the rights of all of its citizens.

I have a cousin who is Dati and lives in Samaria. [The last time I visited him] he lamented for his Palestinian friends who he no longer sees. Some were murdered during the first Intifada for being too friendly with Israelis. Those who still live are, in his words, "people just like us. All they want is to live in peace." If a Palestinian expresses that desire in the PA controlled territories their life may be forfeit. Please remember that.

You've denied that the Arabs have any rights in Israel including Judea and Samaria. You've denied that they belong in Israel at all. You've denied that the Palestinians exist as a people. Yes, their national identity was created as a weapon against Israel, but now two generations of people have grown up with that identity and it is real to them.

You disagreed with me when I said all people, even Arabs, have human rights. That really does qualify as hate speech. You generalized about every Arab on the planet in a way that really can be construed as hate speech. Yes, the anti-Semitism in the Arab world is horrendous. However, the only way we will ever change any of that is if we are open to talk to the ones who don't hate. You know there are a growing number of Arab and Muslim voices supporting Israel. Yes, I know they are a small minority, but it's a start and an important one.

Palestinian mythology attempts to delegitimize Israel. Posting things that delegitimize Arabs and championing denying them the same rights we demand for ourselves isn't helpful at all to our cause. It also doesn't represent majority opinion among Jews or Israelis.

Regarding ceding territory, you know, considering the historical and religious importance of Judea and Samaria I would love to see them annexed to Israel. How do we do that while preserving the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, preserving democracy, and preserving basic Jewish and Israeli values which include human rights and equality for everyone in Israel? My friends on the right have never been able to answer that question. Until they can I have to support some sort of divorce from the Palestinians even if it comes without a peace treaty.

Shabbat Shalom from east Texas.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The "As A Jew..." Phenomenon

One of the dangers of being an outspoken Zionist who is proud of my Jewish and Israeli heritage is that I find myself being put in a position where I end up defending Israel in what has become a truly hostile world. I've done that, in a small part, with this blog over the last nine years. More recently the main focus has been social media, particularly Facebook, where a war of words on not only Israel but on the Jewish people continues daily.

One phenomenon I've seen repeatedly on Facebook is the "As a Jew..." This is a person who identifies themselves as Jewish and uses that as a means of somehow strengthening their attack on Israel, at least in their own view. These attacks are often accompanied by the same old anti-Semitic canards about Jews controlling the media, Western governments and the banks. When you quiz these people on their Jewish identity many will admit to being atheists or otherwise secular, and in some cases their Jewish heritage is limited to one grandparent or great grandparent. Others do claim to have been raised Jewish but to have found the truth in their oh-so-liberal views. They, in general, have no knowledge of Judaism.They know nothing of Jewish history or religion or culture. However, because of a Jewish ancestor they feel justified in speaking for the real, moral, honest, decent Jewish people and feel equally justified in dismissing those of us who do not share their views as racist monsters.

Back in 2006 I shared my response to an anti-Israel, anti-American rant by a young American woman on one of the LinuxChix lists. The support she received from the movers and shakers in the organization at the time is the reason I left. For the "progressive" American left, and indeed for liberals around the world, hating Israel is seen as the morally correct position. The "As a Jew..." adopts this sort of their liberalism as their religion and they defend these beliefs with a zealous passion, abandoning what tiny little connection they may have had to their Jewish roots in the process.

What follows is a response I wrote to an "As a Jew..." today. I've removed names to protect the guilty:

You start from a lot of false assumptions and go downhill from there. First, being a Zionist Jew does not mean hating Arabs. Spend some time in a city like Haifa, where Jews and Arabs live side by side, and where they are good neighbors and friends. Then tell me if being a Zionist means hating Arabs. Huge clue: it does not.

Second, you presume the Palestinians are underdogs and as someone who has very liberal views overall, that makes them worthy of your support. First, get out of the liberal echo chamber. I know what it's like because I'm an old peacenik and I used to be in there. Democracy Now! or AlterNet or ThinkProgress are not objective sources. They are left wing propaganda, much as Rush Limbaugh or Breitbart or Free Republic are right wing propaganda. The one thing all these sites on both the right and left have in common is that they have chosen sides. They won't let facts get in the way of their agenda. You've bought into the leftist agenda which, just like the right wing agenda. bears no resemblance to reality.

The Palestinians are suffering, but not primarily because of Israel. The issue is NOT and HAS NEVER BEEN occupation or oppression. Take this from someone who's father didn't celebrate the great victory of 1967. His words: "Occupation. Bad business." He was right, but mostly not for the reasons you think.

In 1948 80% of the Jews in Palestine were first generation immigrants. So were 80% of the Arabs. They came from neighboring countries to take advantage of economic opportunity created by Jewish immigration. There was nothing wrong with that. However, there was no national identity called Palestinian in the Arab world until after Israel was created. That national identity was created as a weapon against Israel. To be considered a Palestinian refugee by the U.N. you simply had to be in Palestine for two years prior to 1948. Tell me, if you go work somewhere, anywhere in the world for two years are you entitled to citizenship? Of course not.

So... for 65 years these Arab people, Egyptians like Yasser Arafat, Syrians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Lebanese, (Saudi) Arabians have been held hostage in squalid camps and denied basic rights because they are children or grandchildren or great grandchildren of people who worked in British Palestine to be used as a weapon against Israel. Is that Israel's fault or the fault of their real oppressors?

There was no ethnic cleansing, no expulsion in 1948. The Arab leaders told the Arabs to leave and then return when the Jews were pushed into the sea. That never happened. Did some right wing paramilitary groups on the Jewish side want to push the Palestinians out? Of course. Did most of the Arabs who fled ever see these groups? No. Did the Arab side exaggerate dangers to get their people to leave? Yep, as did the paramilitaries. Those groups were disbanded or absorbed by the Israeli government after independence. That government begged the Arabs to stay.

The Palestinians have been abused, but largely by their Arab brethren. No, Israel is not faultless. No, Israeli policy is not perfect. Far from it. However, it is NOTHING like you and your friends portray it. You found some far left Israeli friends to agree with you. That's nice, but it's not mainstream Israeli thought at all.

The main thing you need to understand: the Palestinians are not underdogs. They are part of the 300,000,000 hostile Arabs that surround tiny Israel. They have been offered peace and independence time and again and have turned it down. They are NOT interested. Their interest, and I am talking about the leadership now, is to destroy Israel. Ordinary Palestinians include many fine people who would love to live in peace. Unfortunately they have absolutely no say in the matter.

You are not supporting the underdog. When you support the Arabs you support the oppressors who have already driven nearly a million Jews and most of the Christians and other minorities out of their respective countries. You are not fighting colonialism. You are supporting the colonizers, the Arabs, against the indigenous Jews. You are betraying your own people for liberal ideology which does NOT accurately reflect history or the facts on the ground.