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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Palestinian cause: a liberal non-dilemma

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/07/palestinian-cause-liberal-non-dilemma.html

In  A liberal's lament, Rabbi David Forman writes:
 
"Throughout the years, I have tried to maintain a universal outlook on life, no matter the winds of change that continually blow across the international arena, relentlessly testing my ideological worldview - especially over the 35 years I have lived in Israel and, particularly, the last 10.
 
Since the onset of the second intifada, the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas's takeover of Gaza, the encroachment of Hizbullah, I am fighting forces within me that are edging to the political right - all the while desperately holding on to a progressive philosophical mindset. In the deepest recesses of my being, I am finding it difficult to maintain my usual equilibrium.
 
I am constantly doing battle with two competing inclinations - one to preserve my body (my physical well-being) and one to preserve my soul (my moral integrity). And, right now, the urges of my body seem to be getting the upper hand. I feel my corporeal self under siege from all sides. I ache with the historical burden of persecution knocking at my door every minute of the day, fired by forces like those that engulfed us during the Crusades - read Hamas - and expelled us during the Inquisition - read Hizbullah - and led by the warriors of anti-Semitism like Chmelnitski - read Hassan Nasrallah - and those who slaughtered us mercilessly like Hitler - read Ahmadinejad."
 
Forman is an American and a Rabbi who settled in Israel. He is a former Israeli army officer. I can already hear the reflex ignorant  whining of the anti-Zionist pseudo-left, the readers of Muzzlewatch and Counterpunch and the Nation, which might go something like this:
 
"Reactionary neocon right-wing Zionists always insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Any time you try to say anything bad about Israel, the Jewish Lobby yells, "anti-semitism." Forman is obviously a right wing Jewish settler religious fanatic from Brooklyn, living off the blood of the oppressed Palestinian people and supporting the apartheid regime of the messianic Zionist reactionary war criminals."
 
Save it. Forman is the other sort of Jew, a Jew-liberal. He is  founder of Rabbis for Human Rights, and is the director of the Israel office of the UAHC. Forman continues
 
"HOW DO I maintain a sense of justice for Palestinians ...when I know they are being swept up by a pan-Islamism characterized by Islamist extremism? No wonder the Israeli Left has gone underground. Many of our cherished values have gone up in smoke.
 
We hate the security barrier because it steals Palestinian lands, divides villages and separates families, but we sleep better knowing our children no longer play Russian roulette with their lives when they venture out in public. We deplore targeted assassinations, but when the IDF kills terrorists on their way to fire rockets into Sderot, we breathe a sigh of relief - even if innocent Palestinians are caught in the cross fire.
 
Has the Right read the political map better than we have? Everything that those who opposed the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza predicted would happen has happened. Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south are squeezing us and, at a moment's notice, could wreak havoc upon the country. The internecine fighting in Gaza, where Palestinians killed each other with impunity, proved a harsh reality: These Muslim fanatics are out for anyone's blood that gets in the way of their ultimate goal - spilling the last drop of Jewish blood.
 
SO, WHAT'S an Israeli liberal Jew to do - turn to our leftist sympathizers abroad to gain some perspective and objectivity? Who are they - the American Center for Constitutional Rights that has issued warrants for the arrest of Moshe Ya'alon and Avi Dichter for war crimes; the International Solidarity Movement or the Christian Peacemaker Teams whose Web sites are veritable wellsprings of anti-Semitic drivel?
 
You see why I feel besieged - even my natural allies put me on the defensive.
 
We activists for decency and fair play for the other can no longer bury our heads in the sand. We must find a way to reconcile our ideological liberalism with the harsh political realities of a bellicose neighborhood and an indifferent at best, hostile at worst, world community that allows the UN Human Rights Commission to single out Israel for permanent scrutiny. (Silent complicity strikes the Jews again.) Only America has consistently stood by us.
 
So as not to further darken the gathering storm hovering above, we liberals will have to temper our views and moderate our behavior. Does this mean that we limit self-criticism and curtail what we say and what we do because our words and actions can supply ammunition to our detractors and to those who decry our legitimacy as a state? Does it mean that we sacrifice our moral conscience on an altar of fear? No! But, it does mean that we must carefully weigh the possible consequences of our rhetoric and activities.
 
It also means that we who are sympathetic to Palestinian suffering cannot become mirror images of our right-wing adversaries - abandoning any sense of balance, thus discounting Israeli pain. More so, even as we concede Israeli offenses, we must acknowledge Palestinian violence and, more importantly, its global implications. With the radicalization of Gaza, surely to be exported to the West Bank, Palestinians are part of a growing Islamist threat to Western stability, and we stand at the forefront of its eventual onslaught.
 
....Painful memories of our history, presently reflected in the mirror of a dangerous new reality, compel us to examine and reexamine, evaluate and reevaluate our deeply held principles - even as we resolutely cling to our ideals, steadfastly advancing a social agenda that impels Israel to be a "light unto the nations.""
 

Forman's anguish is honest, and his writing is powerful and compelling, but his diagnosis is mistaken. There is no logical or moral dilemma between supporting Israel and liberal values. Palestinian violence and reaction did not begin with the Hamas. Forman and others like him missed some signals over the last few years. Yasser Arafat was never the apostle of progressive values in the Middle East. He grew up in the same Ikhwan cells that spawned the Hamas. Arafat cut his teeth as a hit man for the forces of the Nazi war criminal Palestinian Arab leader, Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini , whacking Palestinians suspected of disloyalty in Gaza.  Later he was diverted to pseudo-left politics by the Egyptian secret service. The signals should have been loud and clear when Palestinians rejected the possibility of peace in 2000 and opted for violence instead. The suicide bombers of Fatah al-Aqsa were not any more moral and progressive than the suicide bombers of the Hamas.

The allies committed many "human rights violations" in the war against Fascism, bombing civilians and inflicting "collective punishment" on the Germans, Japanese and Italians. But only a fool or a knave would have broadcast for Hitler, criticizing the "atrocities" committed by Roosevelt and Churchill. No progressive worried about "maintaining a sense of justice" for the poor persecuted Nazis. Today there are many such fools and knaves, broadcasting on NPR and the BBC and the pages of the Guardian, the Independent, Counterpunch, Tikkun Magazine and even the New York Times. They  rant about Israeli apartheid and Israeli "war crimes" from the pages of every so-called liberal journal.  

You don't have to be a reactionary Zionist war criminal to oppose a society where "women" are married off at age 14, homosexuals have to cower in fear and girls suspected of pre-marital sex are regularly murdered. You don't have to be a messianic Jewish settler living in Hebron to understand that the corruption and cynicism of the Fatah is immoral and hurts the Palestinians. All of these things were always known to all of us. Alan Dershowitz wrote about some of them in his books, "The case for Israel," and "The case for Peace." But Dershowitz, who advocates a two-state solution, was pilloried by the left, and especially by Jewish anti-Zionists and portrayed as a "neocon" opponent of peace. Where was David Forman in 2002 when suicide bombers killed over a hundred Israelis in a week? Why wasn't he writing, "The case for Israel?"

Forman always knew the facts, as we all did. He chose to ignore them, and now he has convinced himself that only Hamas are no good. But the truth is that neither Fatah or Hamas are appropriate heroes exemplifying progressive ideals. Forman and others like him, like us, have to understand that opposition to the occupation is not an excuse for being blind to the faults of  Palestinian society, or to the pernicious nature of their "liberation" movements. Ending the occupation might be a good liberal cause. Empowering the reactionary gangsters of the Palestinian terror organizations was never a liberal cause and it cannot be one. As for lying to yourself and hiding the truth, they were never part of real progressive values.

Ami Isseroff


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/07/palestinian-cause-liberal-non-dilemma.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.

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