Many readers have written me to express concern about my safety and/or reputation since I have spoken out frankly on the horrible Likud policies of stealing Palestinian lands and brutalizing them with occupation. I’m not a babe in the woods, and I know very well that saying these things is taboo in American political culture. In fact, whenever anyone comes on a cable television news show and is anything but hostile to the Palestinians, he or she is made by the interviewer to denounce terrorism. It is an outrageous implication, and not the job of a news interviewer. But pro-Israeli speakers are never made to denounce land theft or state terror.
I received a very weird phone call from a prominent Jewish-American investigative journalist the other night. He kept muttering about bias against Sharon and how the Israeli security wall is no different from the wall near the Rio Grande (which isn’t true: did the US annex Mexican land to build that?) He kept hinting around that he thought I must have some link to some hate group, or to the Ford Foundation, which he coded as linked to “hate groups,” which in turn seemed to signify for him Palestinians. It was all very conspiracy theorist oriented. I tried to have a straightforward conversation with him, but it was probably a mistake, since it seems fairly obvious he intends to do some sort of hatchet job. I finally had to end it when his paraphrases of what I said became more and more outrageous and inaccurate.
Another journalist named Eli Lake has now begun coming after me, as many readers predicted, using innuendo to suggest that I am to the right of Pat Buchanan and that it is irresponsible of American media outlets to have me on television and radio. One of his charges is that I am accusing the Neoconservatives in the Pentagon of “dual loyalties.”
That is true, but not in the way Lake imagines. I believe that Doug Feith, for instance, has dual loyalties to the Israeli Likud Party and to the U.S. Republican Party. He thinks that their interests are completely congruent. And I also think that if he has to choose, he will put the interests of the Likud above the interests of the Republican Party.
I don’t think there is anything a priori wrong with Feith being so devoted to the Likud Party. That is his prerogative. But as an American, I don’t want a person with those sentiments to serve as the number 3 man in the Pentagon. I frankly don’t trust him to put America first.
Political dual loyalties have nothing to do with any particular ethnicity. It is natural for Armenian Americans to have a special tie to Armenia, for Greek Americans to have a special tie to Greece, for Iraqi Americans to feel strongly about Iraq. For them to take pride in the achievements of their homeland is right an natural, and unexceptionable. There is no reason on the face of it to even bring up their ethnicity with regard to public service.
But if a Syrian American is a strong devotee of the Baath Party, would you appoint him Undersecretary of Defense?
The Likud Coalition in Israel does contest elections. But it isn’t morally superior in most respects to the Syrian Baath. The Likud brutally occupies 3 million Palestinians (who don’t get to vote for their occupier) and is aggressively taking over their land. That is, it treats at least 3 million people no better than and possibly worse than the Syrian Baath treats its 17 million. The Likud invaded Lebanon in 1982 and killed 18,000 or so people, 9,000 of them innocent civilians. This is, contrary to what Bernard Lewis keeps implying, just about equivalent morally to the Syrian Baath’s crushing of the Islamists in Hama the same year, which killed an estimated 10,000. Many in the Likud coalition are commited to “transfer,” or the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. At the least they want to keep Palestinians stateless and without basic human rights and dignity. The vast majority of Palestinians has never commited an act of violence, but Likud propaganda justifies their expropriation on the innuendo that they are all terrorists. Likud aggression is invisible in American media, and the way in which it provokes violence is off limits for discussion.
So I don’t see a big difference between having a fanatical Syrian American Baathist as the number three man in the Pentagon and having a fanatical Jewish American Likudnik.
Lake wants to suggest that I am a racist, and that the implication of my argument is that there should be an ethnic litmus test for public office. There is no point in replying to such slurs. Anyone who tries to defend himself from charges of being a racist just looks silly. I simply think that we deserve to have American public servants who are centrally commited to the interests of the United States, rather than to the interests of a foreign political party. So my position implies a political litmus test for high public office. And, of course there is such a litmus test. Why bother to have Congress confirm or reject appointees otherwise?
Of course, Lake’s salvo is only the first of what will be a campaign to vilify me and misrepresent my views, and to ensure as far as possible that I am silenced. So, why do I do it?
It is September 11. It is obvious to me that what September 11 really represented was a dragooning of the United States into internal Middle East political conflicts. Israel’s aggressive policies in the West Bank and Gaza have poisoned the political atmosphere in the Middle East (and increasingly in the Muslim world) for the United States. It is ridiculous to suggest that radical Islamists don’t care about the Palestine issue.
Now, if it were a matter of Israel’s simple existence causing trouble for the U.S., then I would say, “Too bad! We stand with our friends, and won’t allow you to harm Israel.” But if it is Israeli expansionism and aggression that is causing trouble for the United States, then my response would be to put pressure on Israel to get used to its 1949 borders, which are its only legal ones.
Unless the Israeli Palestinian issue is resolved, there will be more September 11s on US soil. So they should resolve it already. And, it is resolvable. If there were a Palestinian state with leaders who would certify that they are happy with Israel, then 99% of Muslims would accept that.
It can’t be resolved as long as the Likud Party has an aggressive colonialist agenda. It cannot be resolved as long as the United States government is afraid to say “boo” to Ariel Sharon. The taboo erected against saying what I have been saying is a way of ensuring that the Likud gets its way without American interference, even if it means America suffers from the fall-out of Likud aggression.
In addition, what the Likud government is doing is ethically wrong. It has put hundreds of thousands of colonists into the West Bank, stealing land, water and resources from the Palestinians there. It has made the Palestinians’ lives miserable with a dense network of checkpoints, highways, and other barriers to ordinary commerce and movement. And what possible claim could the Likud have on the West Bank of the Jordan? The original Zionist colonizers put almost no settlers there. It was not the part of Palestine that the United Nations awarded Israel in the partition plan. The United Nations Charter, to which Israel is a signatory, forbids the acquisition of territory by warfare, so the mere fact that the West Bank was conquered in 1967 gives Israel no rights in it.
Sharon and other Likudniks keep demanding that the Arabs “recognize” Israel’s “birthright” to the Holy Land. This language is bizarre. First of all, “peoples” don’t have “birthrights” to “land.” There are no peoples in the 19th century racist sense, and there is no link between Land und Volk the way the Likud imagines. Israel should be recognized because its people deserve to live like everyone else, not because of any superstitious and frankly racist “birthright.” (Population geneticists have shown that the entire human population becomes related over 50 generations, so Isaac and the other Patriarchs are by now the common ancestors of us all. If the birthright is genetic, then it is in everyone by now. If it is based on halakhah or Jewish law, well that didn’t exist in Isaac’s time. Abraham probably wasn’t even really a monotheist in the contemporary sense of the term.)
You can’t break down taboos unless you challenge them. Of course, there is the danger that if you challenge them, you will be attacked, and destroyed politically or marginalized. Perhaps it is even likely.
But our country is in dire danger from the conflicts in the Middle East. If I had been a younger man (I am 51) I would have gone to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The very least I can do is to speak out about the dangers, and urge solutions of the problems generating the terrorism. What good is freedom of speech if we don’t use it?