by Joe Shea
May 22, 2011
TRUTH FOR SALE
BRADENTON, Fla., May 22, 2011 -- I keep reminding myself that I am a nothing when I offer my opinion about Israel and its progress toward Middle East peace.
Some 44 years after it creamed the mightiest Arab forces and seized the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, it built a nuclear arsenal, strengthened its armed forces and technology to repel invaders twice more, won global support from civilized and democratic nations - i.e., countries not run by Middle Eastern dictators like Moammar Ghaddafi and Hafez Assad, and knows the United States stands ready at the drop of a Scud missile to defend it to the death.
That's why I actually started laughing when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a pessimist if there ever was one, his hangdog face and sorrowful eyes peering over his avuncular tipped-down glasses, say that without the Golan Heights Israel's borders were "indefensible." Geez. Do they want a 100-ft. high wall between them and the Palestinians to feel safe?
The 3,000 Americans who died in the World Trade Center because Osama bin Laden thought it would make us reconsider our support for Israel, and the 4,200 Americans who have died since in a trillion-dollar effort to prove him wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan, have no say in these negotiations.
There is something about the conversation that seems to automatically exclude the cost to them and us of a foreign policy that has never before wavered in its support of an Israel that is paranoid, intransigent, militarized, polarized and unjust in its deliberate rebuff of attempts to resolve its issues by Presidents Johnson, Carter, Clinton and now Obama.
If that bias were to be stated, it would probably come out something like: Bin Laden was a criminal, so whatever drove him is immaterial; and anyway, you cannot say it had anything to do with America's support of Israel because to say that is to be anti-Semitic, or pro-Nazi, or worse. Inhuman, maybe.
The leverage of the Holocaust still falls heavily to the Israeli side, almost exclusively, despite the millions of Polish Catholics (not because they were Catholics, however), Gypsies and others who also died in death camps, before firing squads and cowering amid their truly defenseless families in their tiny homes.
After 65 years, as the Irish have done after losing a million of their countrymen to famine by the deliberate efforts of the British crown, it is enough, now. Let us move on. It took the Irish 300 years even to make a significant step across the divide of hate, but so far it has proved productive, if not perfect. Let us hope the same for Israel and the State of Palestine, when it is finally declared.
Every people that cares for freedom of religion and expression should know that the Jewish people felt abandoned, but they were not. Millions of British and American troops learned of their tragedy as they were fighting the Nazis, and lost their lives to end the blood lust of Hitler and his mindless robots. No one has a right to claim the suffering was all theirs.
So, too, Israel has no right to deny what has happened to the Palestinian people during the three-quarters of a century with Israel as its arbitrary boss. Having lost so many farms, villages and homes to postwar conquest as the world moved towards grudging acceptance of the State of Israel in 1947, they have never been compensated and Israel became a prosperous state. Isn't that the nub of things in the debate over the "right of return"? Would that be one of the "generous compromises" Mr. Netanyahu is prepared to make?
The fact is that if the Holocaust was a tragedy for many reasons, perhaps the greatest of those was intolerance - of other faiths, of other colors of people, of ideas that clash. They need not clash on the battlefields of war.
Can Israel - buffeted within by liberals and hard-liners as surely as we are here - turn the candle of wisdom on its own deep intolerance of Arabs and Palestinians? Does their language need to distinguish them from schvartzes, goyim and the rest as a matter of cultural preference?
America has moved far beyond Israelis in that respect, even while Jews here in America have led that movement away from intolerance. Can't it happen in Israel, with its deep and disdainful pretense that they are different, or better, or more human than their foes? The chosen people were chosen for greater things than arrogance.
The great irony of such questions, and the response you hear so often from Jews, is "What about them?" How can we plead for Jewish tolerance and change when they face a people with a medieval culture, a hatred for Jews, a blissful acceptance of violence as the way to a happy afterlife, and a conspiratorial view of the non-Palestinian, or at least non-Arab and non-Islamic world? We can't speak Arabic, so we are deaf to what they say and dumb as we talk to them.
The answer to that is truth, and both the leaders of the Islamic and Judaic traditions have put great weight on its shoulders. They say that truth alone can free men. Truth is profoundly needed here on every side, and it is above the political fray so that its voice is unmistakable when it is heard, however rarely.
Let us hear that voice now. Don't give us lies about how Israel is indefensible, and don't give us lies about how Israel is the cause of all the problems of nascent Palestine.
Talk with one another as grown men and women, not relying on your sad violins and mighty cannons, but on the truth that can set this world free of a horrific nightmare that has troubled the land and seas of the Middle East for so very, very long.