Someone for whom I have enormous respect sent me this link today. Here is my response, written after reading that Daily Kos diary in its entirety:
Well – sigh – this is a very, very divisive and complex issue and anything I would add to the debate, you have to know, is colored by my experiences more than perhaps any other issue.
Most American Jews, most, not all, have a love for the state of Israel that is very hard to define in reality because it conflicts, on its face, with most notions of democracy, as Americans know it. For me, and again, I speak only for me, this love is based on an inherited cultural and religious identification with my ancestors and their struggles. It’s also based on my having lived in that country for a year, from June 1984 through June 1985.
The threats to the existence of Israel, to the extent that one believes them or dismisses them, then colors how one feels about those who fail to support Israel at all costs, regardless of whether such costs are reasonable, rationale costs to expect others to pay.
There seems to be a tendency for people to the left of center to paint American Jews who support Israel as human rights haters, because it is of course obvious that Palestinians live in more or less wretched conditions – some of their own doing, some because of the results of all the military conflicts since Britain and the Greeks and the Romans and the Ottomans and everyone else has tried to get a piece of the ancient area known as Palestine, Jewish residents of Israel being one such actor as well.
And there is the tendency for people to the right of center to paint American Jews who do not support Israel, to the extent that they think Israel should be supported, as sympathizers and not Jews and, in fact, anti-Semitic (you may recall that last fall there was a lot of hubbub about the AJC’s publication of an essay that got read in that way – I have a hard copy of it).
I’m an excellent example of the anguish in this conflict – between my love for my religion, other Jews, Israel – and all people, regardless of their religion or location. I don’t like suffering and I’ve always thought that my purpose on this Earth was to lessen it to whatever extent I can. Not restricted to Jews – that’s absurd and my actions over the years demonstrate how I’ve tried to pursue this purpose.
So, when I went to Israel, which was during a particularly peaceful time, just after a particularly brutal time, I came to feel even more empathy than I had before I left the U.S. for all the people in that region: they are pawns. The U.S. uses them, the Arab nations use them, people who have hate agendas – on either side – use these people.
The history of the indigent people of that region is one of being used and abused. You do not have to go far into a history book or the Bible to see that.
And it continues.
So, fast forward to now: I have no use, NONE, for this bullshit about Republican Jews say this, Democratic Jews say that. It is bullshit, Laura, because they are yet again politicizing this issue without attaining results. They are not using the one strength they have in common, which is the point I started with in this response: love for this region.
The right-wing has concerns that a two-state solution is really a subterfuge for a one-state solution that will result in the annhilation of Israel and the Jews. The left-wing has concerns that a failure to fulfill a two-state roadmap will continue to impermissibly deny Palestinians a life in lands that they deserve to inhabit.
Why can’t we decide and then act on a way to go?
Because we have facts that feed fear – on both sides.
For Jews, Israelis, there are people like the president of Iran, and the Palestinian Authority-Hamas leader constantly affirming their desire to be rid of Israel, of Jews, that it is part of what they must do for Islam. Do I know that not all Palestinians or Iranians want that? Of course, but they are not in power. The Hamas-led PA, in particular, is a threat I take very seriously – whether or not they have the power to do it – they WANT to do it, at least some visible, significant portion of the population.
For the Palestinians, they live miserable lives. We don’t need to assign blame to see that. How can anyone look at their lives and not want to either turn away or work to help them have better lives?
But let’s look at what we expect of our own Americans – regardless of religion. When we see poverty here, oppression here, by government fiat, or corporations, or our neighbors – what do we do? We are a nation at conflict with itself as well when it comes to human rights problems and we don’t even do the right thing for our own people. How can we further separate ourselves, as Republican Jews and Democratic Jews so that we bring our inertia about the suffering in our own country to the Middle East?
That is how I see such conflicts, Laura. Wasteful. There are brilliant and energetic and wealthy people on both sides. They know better – they KNOW better. And yet they refuse to stop politicizing.
Did it ever occur to either side that they perpetuate their own existence because they refuse to give up the political nature of what they’ve created as a discourse in U.S. politics?
What would happen if they abandoned that politicization? Oooo – they might have to look for common interests. Oooo – they might have to agree.
They might have to MAKE SOME HARD CHOICES.
NOW – that all said, Laura, this too is vital to understand:
For all my peace-nik tendencies, when the fighting went on this past summer, I moved to the center and then slightly to the right of center when it came to Israel. If I had to choose between the Lebanese and the Israelis, and again, this is just that “who would you save if you could only save one person” question – I would choose Israel. And I really felt that it could come to that.
Never in my life did I feel more threatened for the existence of Israel than last July.
So much so that for the first time ever, I agreed to go to an AIPAC event – and that is EXTREMELY radical for me. In the end, I couldn’t go – a scheduling conflict, and I was relieved!
Now, again, an AIPAC event is coming up and a very close friend of mine is even the co-chair of it. We’re getting multiple hits to attend – John Bolton is the speaker. Yes, that John Bolton.
Again, I’m hemming and hawing about whether to go. I do not, as a general rule, support AIPAC.
People who support AIPAC, people who support Israel unconditionally or nearly so – they feel, they see Israel’s existence as in danger every single waking and sleeping moment. They are not making this up. Others can scoff at that all they want, but they feel it, Laura and when you hear them, when you listen, you know that they are not feigning.
The left’s mistake is to de-legitimize the right’s fears and enable the worst elements (like Hamas) to take advantage of the politicizing of this issue. The right’s mistake is to de-legitimize the left’s desire to meet everyone’s needs.
So – when I see a post like the one to which you’ve linked, I browse through it – but there is nothing new there, Laura. It is rhetoric, meant to whip up people. Both sides use it and both sides get no where with it. They are in their own wind tunnel, spinning around and around in a fury.
While the Israelis suffer and the Palestinians suffer.
We hear the right say that no one sees the good going on in Iraq? Why don’t they ever say that no one sees the good going on that’s pursued by Muslim, Christian and other Arabs and Jews, by Palestinians and Israelis? And work to expand that?
I could go on and on – but I won’t for now.
That’s how I see it. And thanks for asking. Are you sorr
y you did? 🙂