Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Moral Failure of the Jews

The news from Gaza is horrific. Israeli forces knowingly shelled a U.N. school where Palestinians were cowering in fear, killing at least 40 civilians and injuring over fifty, most of them women and children. A U.N. spokesman said that Israel had been notified that the building was a shelter, given its GPS coordinates, and the facility was clearly marked. Israel's military said its shelling — the deadliest single episode since the campaign against Gaza began a week ago — was a response to mortar fire from within the school compound and said Hamas militants were using civilians "as human shields." Some 15,000 Palestinians have packed the U.N.'s 23 Gaza schools because their homes were destroyed or to flee the violence. Nearly 600 Palestinians have been killed during the 11-day assault and almost 3,000 injured. Israel's devastating attack is in retaliation for rocket attacks by Hamas on its relatively well-off residents, killing four since the war began. Five Israel soldiers have died, three from "friendly" fire. Israel's disproportionate response to the relatively minor irritation of "terrorism" by Hamas, amounting to genocide, is comparable to killing mosquitoes with a bazooka (pick your own metaphor).

"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized," said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a Middle East envoy for the EU, said, for "anyone living in Gaza, it is hell." Even Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's minister for justice and peace, charged that conditions in Gaza "increasingly resemble a big concentration camp." Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is “genocide” and appealed for urgent action by the U.N. Security Council. “Gaza today is living a new Palestinian catastrophe,” Abbas said. “I call upon this council to take the first necessary steps to save my people in Gaza, a resolution calling for an immediate cessation of Israeli aggression.” The night before, three Palestinian men were killed in an Israeli attack on another U.N. school for refugees. “These attacks by Israeli military forces which endanger U.N. facilities acting as places of refuge are totally unacceptable and must not be repeated,” said U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. “Equally unacceptable are any actions by militants which endanger the Palestinian civilian population.” International relief agencies warned that the humanitarian situation in Gaza was becoming increasingly horrorific. Most of the population of 1.5 million are without power, and hundreds of thousands are without running water.

Where are the Jewish voices speaking out against the violence perpetuated by the Jewish state of Israel in their name? I ask this because many people have wondered why so many Muslims are silent in the face of terrorist acts committed by supposedly devout followers of Islam, from the attack on the World Trade Center to the latest suicide bombing in Iraq. Does this "conspiracy of silence" show that Judaism or Islam is an inherently violent religion?

Many radical atheists, like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, believe religion itself is at fault. I don't agree. I think that religious language is a cover for other, more concrete disagreements. Most political disputes are about land and power. This was the case in Ireland and I am certain that the root of the conflict in the Middle East is a struggle for control of land. Palestinians hate Jewish Zionists because their land was stolen to create the state of Israel. Jews feel threatened by every non-Jew and push for a "final solution" in which Jews and Arabs (many of whom are Christians) are separated by a giant fence that will prevent all contact between these disparate and desperate people.

The fence, and the "two-state solution," are as illusory as the belief that a well-financed (by the US.) military machine can enter a dense urban environment and stamp out all guerrilla activity. "Terrorism" is always the weapon of the weak. The rockets Hamas lobs into Israel are more symbolic than dangerous (which is not to say that a rare bull's eye cannot kill). Israel's relentless destruction of Gaza will create thousands, perhaps millions, of new terrorists dedicated to eradicating the state of Israel. When will they ever learn?

Those waiting for Obama to take over from the sycophantic administration of George Bush will probably be disappointed. While visiting Israel in July he said, "If somebody is sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that - and I'd expect Israelis to do the same thing." But what if his daughters were cowering in a U.N. school in Gaza? Yesterday, Obama broke his silence (he wasn't so quiet when terrorists attacked in Mumbai) by telling reporters: "The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel [note the strained attempt at balance] is a source of deep concern to me, and after January 20th I’ll have plenty to say about the issue." But his support for Israel, as well as that of his new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is well known. There is some evidence, however, that the knee-jerk overwhelming support of Israel by U.S. politicians is at odds with the American public.

Hundreds of Thai Muslims have been demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy in Bangkok. I'm tempted to join them. I feel angry and powerless about what's happening in Gaza. The conflict there seems endless. I watch the speakers in the U.N. Security Council on CNN debate the issue, recycling the same old arguments I've heard for years. As long as the U.S. gives a blank check to the Jewish state, and Jews around the world continue to support the government that commits war crimes in their name, the genocide will continue.

ADDENDUM: Read "Moral Blindness on Gaza" from The Nation by Robert Scheer. The same article appeared as "Why do so few speak up for Gaza" in where Scheer is an editor. In it, he writes:
Even if we accept the harshest portrayal of the tactics and motives of the Palestinian movements against Israel after the Six-Day War, at what point did that terrorism represent a serious challenge to the survival of the Jewish people or the state that claims to speak in their name? Yet that survival is invoked to justify the vastly excessive use of force by the Israeli war machine, with frequent allusions to the Holocaust previously visited upon the Jewish people, a holocaust that had nothing to do with Palestinians or Muslims, and everything to do with Central Europeans claiming to be Christians. The high moral claim of the Israeli occupation rests not on the objective reality of a Palestinian threat to Israel's survival, but rather on the non sequitur cry that "never again" should harm come to Jews as it did in Central Europe seven decades ago.
Describing how in 1948 "a group of prominent Jewish intellectuals including Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook and Hannah Arendt" warned about the "terrorist" Menachem Begin, leader of the new state of Israel which had been established partly through terrorist acts against the British, Scheer asks, "Where are the voices that reflect the uncompromising morality of Einstein's generation of Jewish intellectuals willing to acknowledge fault and humanity on both sides of the political equation?"

And by all means, if you have the slightest doubt that Israel is guilty of the most horrific war crimes, past and present, read Robert Fisk's angry "Why Do They Hate The West So Much, We Will Ask."


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Will,

"Where are the Jewish voices speaking out against the violence perpetuated by the Jewish state of Israel in their name?"

No. The Israeli actions against Hamas (as much as I deplore the violence) is not carried out in the name of Judaism! It is carried out in the name of national security, in an attempt to prevent Hamas rockets being fired into Israeli national territory.

I imagine that most countries in the world would at some point react in the same (deplorable) manner given the same relentless provokation from an organisation whose delclared aim is to wipe you from the face of the earth.

The current awful violence carried out by Israel is not a moral failure of the Jewish people, it is a failure of the Israeli state.

As for the hundreds of Thai Muslims demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, I wonder when they'll start demonstrating against their Thai co-religionists who shoot schoolteachers and behead policemen on the roadsides of southern Thailand?

Or is it only Israeli attrocities they are concerned about? Do attrocities in Thailand carried out by members of their own religion (and in the name of their own religion) not also deserve a demonstration?

All violence is wrong.


Dr. Will said...

Thai Muslims are demonstrating in solidarity with Muslims in Palestine. I agree that Muslims should also protest Islamic violence. Israel, however, is a declared religious state. Most Jews the world over support Israel unconditionally. It is these Jews that I am criticizing for failing to stand up against violence done in their name. It is not Islam and Judaism but their faithful that have failed morally, in my humble opinion. Each has blinders on.

Anonymous said...

Hi Will,

Yes, I looked up the report about those protests in the Bangkok Post and found this:

"About 400 members of the Muslim Group for Peace rallied in front of the embassy, waving banners reading "Destroy Israel,"

So, let's get this right. The 'Muslim Group for PEACE' are waving banners reading 'DESTROY Israel'.

Doesn't sound very peaceful does it? I notice they are not calling for a ceasefire, not calling for an end to civilian casualties, not calling for end end to Hama rocket fire, they are calling for the destruction of Israel.

And, as if to underline their message, they also burnt an Israeli flag.

I'm sorry Will, but Israel doesn't call for the destruction of Palestine (which it could carry out if it wanted), it just wants end end to Hamas attacks. On the other hand we have the 'Muslim Group for Peace' calling for the destruction of Israel (which they can't carry out but would if they were able).

Will, I have no sympathy for any group that burns national flags and calls for the destruction of entire countries.

Israel is wrong to use all this force - but that certainly doesn't make the other side right.


Dr. Will said...

Marcus, I agree. As my father used to tell me, two wrongs don't make a right. But if we ask Muslims to criticize the violence done by radical Islamists, we should also ask the world's Jews to criticize the state terrorism committed by in their name by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank. A simple quid pro quo. And don't forget that Israel has been strangling the stillborn state of Palestine for several generations, a de facto destruction.