Coastal Post Online


October, 2003

The Suppressed Jewish Voice
By Karen Nakamura

   "I'm not calling for the destruction of Israel by having them withdraw from the occupied territories, I think it would be the best thing for them." Ex-President Jimmy Carter on C-SPAN, 25th Anniversary of Camp David Accords, Sept. 17th. "Whenever Israel is threatened, America will be there to support it."
   Jewish support of Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies is incomprehensible to many. After suffering so intensely during World War II, it is unfathomable that Jews would tolerate Sharon's infliction of similar terror tactics upon Palestinians. But a growing number of Americans now see that as true. The recent spate of Hamas assassinations, the killings of peace activists and reporters, the continued leveling of physical Palestine, expansion of settlements and the building of the Wall, despite negotiations, can leave no doubt about Sharon's intentions. Peace activists everywhere are asking, "Whatever happened to Never Again?"
   Correspondingly, if anyone questions Sharon, nationalistic Jews try to intimidate the questioner. Jewish peace activists are called traitors. Non-Jews are accused of anti-Semitism. During the Camp David Anniversary panel discussion, for instance, the Israeli negotiator deliberately changed the discussion to Israel's sufferings when the conversation had turned to the detrimental effects of Israel's settlements. Every panelist except the Israeli thought settlements the key obstruction to peace. The ambassador never acknowledged, nor has an Israeli official acknowledged, occupation as the core problem. 
   It's a discussion that needs to be made openly. The rift between Jews and non-Jews is growing daily as is the split between secular and orthodox Jews. The only way peace can really come to the Middle East is for Americans and Israelis to insist Sharon stop state-sponsored terrorism. Israel must get out of Palestine. This is the consensus in the United Nations, Europe and the rest of the world except Israel and the US. Is Israel sane while the rest of the world is crazy? Why do we continue to close our eyes to the obvious?
   The respected San Francisco Rabbi Michael Lerner has gotten death threats from Jewish zealots for his views on a peaceful solution. But he continues to preach conflict resolution and acceptance of both sides. He answered the CP's e-mail on the subject by stating;
   "There has been a terrible symbiosis between extremists on both sides of this struggle. The acts of terror against Israeli civilians has played into Jewish fears of ultimate vulnerability, fears based on our actual experience of the past two thousand years of oppression by Christians and Muslims and indifference from the rest of the world, and that has made many reluctant to stand up to Ariel Sharon---even though his policies could be understood to be detrimental to the long-term survival both of Israel and the Jewish people."
   Long time Marin politico, Dr. William Roth joined the conversation out in the field, his handy ironing board filled with voter registration cards and Dennis Kocinich flyers. Someone came up recently and said he wanted to kill all Arabs. "I realized then he probably felt the same way about Jews, about me.
   "The inordinate desire to support Israel is seen by Jews as the only way to shield themselves from pogroms and persecution. People understand that. What they don't consider is Jews were, to a degree, sold a bill of goods. Large groups of people were originally led to believe that Palestine was basically empty, a desert. You may remember the campaign of making the deserts bloom in the fifties and sixties. They didn't think of Palestine as inhabited. They were led to believe it was empty. The media did nothing to dissuade that idealist image. US policy helped by giving blind support to Israel. They believed no one was going to be hurt. It was suppose to be a win-win situation.
   "When we Jews realized Palestinians were being brutalized, we hide. American Jews feel more guilty than Israelis because nothing has happened to them. Their attitude is 'I wasn't harmed then so I have to protect Israel now.' Personally, I couldn't be objective. It was the whole thing, my emotional life, my parents, what we've gone through. I have to admit my gut reaction was bias. I withdrew into other projects for four years. As time went by, I began to realize Palestinians are being brutalized and that the Israeli government is working to the detriment of the State of Israeli. I found my heart and my mind in different places. The Coastal Post's own Ed Miller told me that, as a Jew, I have a greater responsibility to correct the misinformation that has led to conflict." 
  In his e-mail, Michael Lerner continued this theme.
   "That's why we've created a new INTERFAITH organization called The Tikkun Community to bring together Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, secular humanists, etc. to create an approach that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and to insist that Ariel Sharon and his supporters are really destructive to the best interest of the Jewish people, of the American people, and of world peace. Yet as long as the terror persists, our voice will be marginalized, just as the peace voices in American society in relationship to American militarism have been marginalized by the voices of fear that have dominated public discourse since 9/11."
   There is a growing friendship between Jews and Arabs but the specter of right-wing fanaticism looms on both sides. If Israel continues eradicating moderate Palestinians for land, they may win the battle but they'll lose the war. The whole world is watching and no longer fooled. 



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