As a Reform Jew who supports both Israel’s right to exist and a two-state solution, I have long disliked AIPAC. AIPAC does not represent my views, that of the majority of American Jews, or Israelis. Rather, AIPAC seems to be little more than an extension of the Likud Party in Israeli and its supporters here. (I recall a story on an effort of progressive Jews to start an alternative to AIPAC, and I will try to post on that.)
I have heard the claims that Israel and Zionists or Jews in general are behind the war, and reject these claims. I will present some documentation for these claims, but I would argue that what we have seen for some time is an alliance of neo-conservatives in various countries. They share a vision of transforming the world on the lines of their philosophy and are prepared to use military force and deception to do so. In this, they differ little from some of the fanatics who are targeting our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they share a belief in a vision that justifies any actions.
I must also address a disturbing problem on the left, a tendency to blame Israel, Zionists, and Jews for all the woes of the Middle East and the world. (I am not accusing anyone here of this, but the phenomenon does not exist.) I have seen Zionism be equated with racism and Nazism. I believe that this is wrong, and if we fail on the Left to address bigotry in our own midst, we become as guilty of condoning it as some have condoned racism and homophobia on the Right. (Here are some links from http://www.mideastweb.org
, a site run by Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. Zionism: http://www.mideastweb.org/zionism.htm
. Jews, Jewish Religion, anti-Semitism the Talmud and Zionism
Sense and Nonsense about Jews and Jewish Belief: http://www.mideastweb.org/jewreligion.htm
. For an example of racism, kindly read the charter of Hamas, and explain why a state where non-Muslims are reduced to dhimmi status and contains anti-Jewish quotations should not be treated any differently form Mein Kampf: http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm
) Indeed, there have been mistakes and wrongs committed by Israelis, Palestinians, and their neighbors in the long conflict. I would argue that there are claims on each side, but that demonizing any side is a tactic that we should oppose. It does nothing to advance peace, and seems either to be an exercise in self-righteousness or furthering the conflict to achieve a desired end. Indeed, I see very little difference between someone who calls for the Palestinians to be expelled from the West Bank and Gaza and those who call for Israel to be dismantled and its citizens pushed into the Mediterranean.
At the same time, I refuse to participate in any call to silence debate. First, the way to debate a bad idea is to present arguments and facts. Mind you, you may not convince the other party, but you will gain far more sympathy for your views than trying to silence anyone. (This is one of my problems with the Daily Kos. Regardless of one’s views on 9/11, I think people should be free to discuss the issues and their interpretations. Too many good people have fought and died for my rights to dismiss their sacrifices or my civil liberties.)
First, let us examine the accusation in its base form. I am going to site an article from http://wwww.tikkun.org
, an organization of spiritual progressives led by Rabbi Michael Lerner. I am going to include Tikkun’s response to an article from someone who has written for Tikkun Magazine in the past.
James Petras writes a scathing analysis of the Zionist role in creating the war in Iraq. It is a position with which we disagree, but it needs to be understood and challenged. We in Tikkun who support Israel (and Palestine, and universal human rights) opposed the war, and one of the many reasons was that we saw this kind of blaming of the Jews as inevitable. Now it is starting and we should be prepared.
The article below does NOT represent the thinking of Tikkun Magazine or The Tikkun Community. In fact, it is antithetical to the way we approach politics in general. But it is representative of a dangerous tendency in the Left--to blame the war in Iraq on Zionists--and therefore something we should be aware of and prepared to engage in public debate.
The writer is a respected thinker, and someone who has published in Tikkun magazine. But the form of his agrument here involves the kind of guilt by association that is extremely dangerous: the Jews in the Bush Administrations who were both Zionists and pro-invasion of Iraq are the proof that the war was a Zionist war, and because the war was not successful in regard to its other stated goals then the only remaining goal for which it was successful, elimination of an enemy of Israel, becomes on Petras' reasoning the actual motivation for the war.
This is as reasonable as saying that the reason for the Fidel Castro-led conquest of Cuba was to impose a dictatorship that would be homophobic and denying of human rights (because in fact these were among the outcomes of the struggle). Or to argue that the goal of the Russian involvement in WWII was to expand its control over the world, using opposition to Hitler only as an excuse. What Petras does is to oversimplify reality to a point where he can find one evil force that is motivating a complex reality, rather than seeing the often contradictory elements in a given situation and how they play out.
One of the journalists whom I respect for his investigative reporting is Greg Palast, who has looked into the accusation of the war in Iraq being a Zionist plot: I am going to include the first two and the last two paragraphs here.
Was The Invasion of Iraq a Jewish Conspiracy?
Published by Greg Palast June 26th, 2006 in Articles
Tikkun Magazine JULY/AUGUST 2006
Did the Jews do it?
The US Congress will open hearings this week on the War in Iraq — a wee bit late one might think. But one question at the forefront of the minds of many on both the Left and the Right is sure not to be asked: Did the Jews do it? I mean, after killing Jesus, did the Elders of Zion manipulate the government of the United States into invading Babylon as part of a scheme to abet the expansion of Greater Israel?
The question was first posed to me in 2004 when I was speaking at a meeting of Mobilization for Peace in San Jose. A member of the audience asked, “Put it together — Who’s behind this war? Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and the Project for a “Jew” American Century and, and, why don’t you talk about that, huh? And…”
Finally, on March 16, 2005, second anniversary of the invasion, neo-con leader of the pack Wolfowitz was cast out of the Pentagon war room and tossed into the World Bank, moving from the testosterone-powered, war-making decision center to the lending office for Bangladeshi chicken farmers.
“The realists,” crowed the triumphant editor of the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, “have defeated the fantasists!”
So much for the Big Zionist Conspiracy that supposedly directed this war. A half- dozen confused Jews, wandering in the policy desert a long distance from mainstream Jewish views, armed only with Leo Strauss’ silly aphorisms, were no match for Texas oil majors and OPEC potentates with a combined throw weight of half a trillion barrels of oil.
Investigative Reporter Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats,
Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal ‘08, No Child’s Behind Left and other
Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War to be released next week in United Kingdom and Ireland by Penguin UK, from which this essay is adapted.
Uri Avnery, a veteran Israeli peace activist and founder of Gush Shalom, has commented on the Israeli-American relationship and its complexities. I should point out that I have seen numerous articles in Israeli publications where other authors have suggested that Washington, D.C. controls Israel’s foreign policy.
Who's the dog? Who's the tail?
By Uri Avnery
At the basis of the phenomenon lies the uncanny similarity between the two national-religious stories, the American myth and the Israeli. In both, pioneers persecuted for their religion reached the shores of the Promised Land. They were forced to defend themselves against the "savage" natives, who were out to destroy them. They redeemed the land, made the desert bloom, created, with God's help, a flourishing, democratic and moral society.
Both societies live in a state of denial and unconscious guilt feelings - over there because of the genocide committed against the Native Americans and the horrifying slavery of the blacks, here because of the uprooting of half the Palestinian people and the oppression of the other half. Both here and there, people believe in an eternal war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness.
ANYHOW, THE American-Israeli symbiosis is unique and far too complex a phenomenon to be described as a simple conspiracy. I am sure that the two professors did not mean to do so.
The dog wags the tail and the tail wags the dog. They wag each other.
Daniel Levy, an Israeli writer and diplomat who has appeared on the Al Franken Show, also comments on this. He is a Senior Fellow of the New America Foundation and negotiated on Israel’s behalf at the Taba negotiations in 2000 and was the lead Israeli negotiator of the Geneva Intiative, a private document proposing a path to peace signed by leading Israeli and Palestinian politicians. His bio is at http://www.newamerica.net/people/daniel_levy
. Here are two articles of his and I will be quoting from near the end of each article.
Quit the Canard That American Policy Advances Israeli Security
By Daniel Levy, New America Foundation
The Forward | August 25, 2006
The idea that current American policy advances Israeli security and national interests is thoroughly discredited -- something that is now openly aired in the Israeli media, and raised, albeit in more discreet circles, by Israeli Cabinet ministers. Iran has been emboldened and regionally strengthened, the growing Israeli debate on possible dialogue with Syria is cut short by "Washington will say no" reminders, and the much-needed international encouragement for renewing a political process with the Palestinians to replace the unappealing options of unilateralism and stagnation lacks American leadership.
It may be awkward, even counter-intuitive, but Israelis and Americans who care about Israel need to find a way to spit out the words that those in the administration who can perhaps still be convinced need to hear: "You may indeed think you're being terribly supportive of Israel, but, uh, actually it isn't going so great. That clash of civilizations thing, well eventually your 130,000 troops will go home and we'll be left carrying the can. What we really need is serious, unwavering diplomatic engagement, perhaps an envoy, and broaden the circle of folks you are talking too, 'bad guys' included. Maybe re-launch a peace process worthy of the name, even a regional Madrid-style conference -- just try it."
Just in case that does not work, a parallel effort must be put into building common approaches with internationalist Republicans and anti-war Democrats, with the aim of creating a shared agenda of stability building and conflict resolution in the Middle East. The threat of an anti-Israel populist and isolationist backlash may well exist, but so too does the opportunity to ally with the Iraq-war skeptics in navigating regional policy away from its dangerous and failed current trajectory.
Of course, there is always the no-think option: continuing the politics of intimidation, merrily counting the co-signatories on meaningless 'pro-Israel' congressional resolutions, and embracing the apocalyptic vision of a 100 Years War in the Middle East that so threatens Israel's well-being. Israelis today do not have the luxury of indulging arrogant fantasies. Neither, I would suggest, do our American friends.
Levy also has an article with a great title that calls for people to oppose a neo-conservative agenda in many countries that has lead to war and suffering. In this, those on the Left may find allies in many places. It is going to take a lot to unravel the neo-con agenda and its disastrous policies --- here and abroad.
Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare
By Daniel Levy, New America Foundation
Haaretz | August 5, 2006
Israel does have enemies, interests and security imperatives, but there is no logic in the country volunteering itself for the frontline of an ideologically misguided and avoidable war of civilizations.
So what should be done, on both sides of the ocean?
It is admittedly difficult for Israel to have a regional strategy that is out-of-step with the U.S. administration-of-the-day. However, the neocon approach is not unchallenged, and Israel should not be providing its ticket back to the ascendancy. A U.S. return to proactive diplomacy, realism and multilateralism, with sustained and hard engagement that delivers concrete progress, would best serve its own, Israeli and regional interests. Israel should encourage this. Israel may even have to lead, for instance, in rethinking policy on Hamas or Syria, and should certainly work intensely with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in encouraging his efforts to reach a Palestinian national understanding as a basis for stable governance, security quiet and future peace negotiations. A policy that comes with a Jerusalem kosher stamp of approval might be viewed as less of an abomination in Washington.
Beyond that, Israel and its friends in the United States should seriously reconsider their alliances not only with the neocons, but also with the Christian Right. The largest "pro-Israel" lobby day during this crisis was mobilized by Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United For Israel, a believer in Armageddon with all its implications for a rather particular end to the Jewish story. This is just asking to become the mother of all dumb, self-defeating and morally abhorrent alliances.
Internationalist Republicans, Democrats and mainstream Israelis must construct an alternative narrative to the neocon nightmare, identifying shared interests in a policy that reestablishes American leadership, respect and credibility in the region by facilitating security and stability, pursuing conflict resolution and promoting the conditions for more open societies (as opposed to narrow election-worship). The last two years of the Bush presidency can be an opportunity for progress or an exercise in desperate damage limitation. It sounds counter-intuitive, but Israel should reflect on and even help reorient American expectations.
I would argue that we need to have a reorientation in foreign policy and domestic policy, both here and abroad. As for AIPAC, as I stated previously, I do not trust it or the Likud or the current incarnation of the GOP. However, I think we need to be careful not to paint anyone who supports Israel's right to exist with the same broadbrush as AIPAC.