Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Response to the Tired Cliches in the Jewish Daily Forward

 This is a response to a recent article by J J Goldberg in the Forward newspaper.

What first appears to be an indictment of Israeli Machiavellian politics is instead an endorsement of them. Taking an approach similar to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Iraq, J J Goldberg laments in his new article that Israel is "stumbling into" a "war that nobody wanted," yet, on balance, this blood feud might just teach the Palestinian "crime family" a "lesson," creating a few more years of peace. Overall, he has written a stale portrait of Netanyahu's complex "pragmatism" which he claims is heading off a push in the Israeli right for a full-scale land invasion.

But we are not on the edge of the cliff as the Forward and the Israeli branding allege. Rather we have been at the bottom of the canyon for some time thanks in no small part to the perpetual fog of war and cult of personality. Such a miserable depth has blinded Goldberg and many others to the dignity of the Palestinian people (see this rundown for what I have in mind). A favorite of his colleague Mira Sucharov (who does not deny the nationalism of Palestinians), Max Nordau, was absolutely repulsed when he heard Israel was conquering already settled land, "we are committing an injustice," he said. If these are the reactions of people invested in the Zionist program, it's hard to be surprised when those living under occupation their whole life don't agree in principle. Yet Goldberg manages to be affronted by this.

The most important omission however in this article is what William Mardsen has called "the prime reason for the violent outbreaks," namely the occupation, the settlements, and the "daily humiliations and frequent outbursts of brutality." Mardsen further notes Obama's reminder of just which country pays billions to Israel, a very good reason for obeying US diktat on how to conduct the war. While Goldberg indulges himself in the spectacle of the violence he pretends to abhor, without worrying about repercussions, he totally misses what the cycle means politically. It was known in 1996 when Netanyahu was elected he was going to empower Hamas, not weaken them. Lisa Beyer of Time magazine noted "[t]he radicals of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, along with the smaller Islamic Jihad, hope to provoke Israel into abrogating its agreements with Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization." To do this, "Hamas would love to see the Likkud come to power. It would mean the end of the peace agreement." Goldberg will be surely happy to learn that, on balance, Israel too provoked attacks, assassinating a Palestinian with a cell phone -- a murder Israelis I come into contact with often laud as ingenious. Ten years after the "slimmest of majorities was persuaded that [Netanyahu's] youthful energy and conservative caution hold the greater promise," Hamas won its first election. The peace negotiations under the guidance of the idea of giving Palestinians no more than "fried chicken" pretty much brought us to where we are now, with some warning of a new intifada. This was done with full support of many wealthy Americans who were enamored by his polished, TV-friendly image, as well as a 15 point bump in polls from terror attacks escalated under the government of Peres. Pragmatic indeed.

Goldberg makes no mention of these Palestinian victims, nor US responsibility. Instead he engages in celebration of breaking the will of the Palestinian Mafia which includes members of Parliament and political prisoners "crush[ed]... according to the law," as an Israeli interrogator threatened. Goldberg indeed forgets to mention aggression itself is a crime under international law, although he brings up the damning Goldstone report as an aside. In fact, not only is aggression a crime but the threat of one is as well. Robert Kagan warns that the result of this aid policy will, in effect mean "that there will never be another chance" as a new generation of vengeful, oppressed jihadis follow the money. What a ticklish predicament.

It's time to give up the tired cliches and put pressure on the US to give up its role as chief negotiator,  and to suspend enough aid to isolate the stern politicos looking for a fight (this also includes universities such as BGSU and Abilene Christian University which have intimate ties to the US military industrial complex). I propose it should amount to $25 billion, a proportionate response to the amount divested in 1960 from South Africa in protest of their white nationalism (coincidentally, this is also about the sum Israel received from Germany in reparations for the Holocaust).

And it's important we do this before things get out of control. But with that in mind, what does "control" look like? Looking at only 11 days in January of this year, Ray Hanania documented "racist graffiti, burning and uprooting trees, breaking car windows and puncturing tires, in addition to attacks against the [Palestinian] villagers themselves" -- acts Mira Sucharov presumably sees as "casual racism." Contrary to the sympathetic image the Forward paints, Netanyahu's government warned in February of this year, before the ISIS/Islamic Jihad kidnapping, that he was going to "teach Hamas a lesson very soon." Minister Uri Ariel echoed this recently, condemning the "terror government," and vowing "a clear Zionist answer" -- more illegal settlements. Far from spontaneous self-defense, following an end to "seven years" of "the most tranquil in Israel’s history" these are leading Israeli politicians endorsing "sickening and appalling" tactics months beforehand. They have too much support already in their political campaign against Palestinian independence.

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