On Being a Leftist and a Zionist, p.3

As a Zionist leftist, I have no desire to defend or apologize for Israeli settlement policies, human rights abuses, or discrimination against its Arab citizens. I side with the Israeli Left in opposing all of these. I side with the Left in favoring a two-state solution, such as that put on the table at Camp David in the summer of 2000. But when Yassir Arafat rejected that proposal, refused to even offer one of his own, refused to even negotiate, and instead began a campaign of organized violence - which, objective evidence now shows, he actively supported and funded - then, like the rest of the Israeli Left, I began to lose hope.

The whole basis of Oslo was that Arafat was going to head a moderate Palestinian government, "rein in the militants," and negotiate a final agreement with Israel. Instead, he fanned the flames of militancy with incendiary rhetoric and media messages, PA-funded billboards praising the 'suicide-bomb martyrs,' and anti-Semitic school curricula; he funded suicide bombers against innocent Israeli civilians (these are facts, not opinions; the memos exist); and he did what every Israeli right-winger said he would do: he betrayed us.

So now Israel has a disgusting war, a war where there is no definition of victory. Prior to the Summer of 2000, victory meant getting Arafat to do his job, reaching an agreement, and getting the hell out of 'Palestine.' But now? Now my friends on the Left find me reactionary. And I find myself agreeing with odious right-wingers and racists. Because Arafat killed the peace, and funded terrorism. Like some lefty friends of mine said to me over dinner at Caffit, a popular cafe targeted by a thwarted suicide bomber, "We're still in the peace camp, but you can't let yourself be blown up all the time."

To repeat, Israel is not blameless. Its post-Oslo policy of "no new settlements" still allowed existing settlements to grow wildly, angering and frustrating Palestinians. Its use of collective punishment fanned the Palestinian Right. But it is Arafat and his cronies - whose first act in power was to replicate the elitism of the Arab world by stealing European aid money and using it to build private villas for themselves - who have brought on the misery. Just as Saudi elitism causes millions of dirt-poor peasants to clamor for something, anything, to give their lives meaning - which bin Laden provides - so too Palestinian elitism has starved the Palestinian people and made them hate peace and love war. The Palestinian leaders make life miserable, preach hatred on the airwaves, and provide money for suicide bombs. Is this how you ready a people for peace?

Israel needs to get out of the territories. A stable Palestinian government needs to get in. You can't rule over three million people who don't want you there, except by means of unacceptable force. But where is the stable Palestinian government now? Sheltering and funding murderers? What would the Left have Israel do - let the state next door send suicide bombers into every cafe?

The media tells stories about Israeli 'incursions' into Palestinian areas, as if Israel just felt like taking them over, as if counter-terrorism and terrorism were the same thing. I see profiles of poor Palestinian children sifting through rubble, without any context that within that rubble was once a garrison of explosives. Today's paper has photos of European and American Leftists protesting at the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity, demanding the Israelis "end the siege." Who do the protesters think is inside the church - priests and nuns? There are murderers, known murderers, hiding inside. Anyone innocent who has surrendered has been let go by the Israelis. The reason the people inside have not surrendered is that they are not innocent. Why, for a political movement so interested in finding the truth amid the mass media lies, is the Left so susceptible to media manipulation and so uninterested in truth and history?

And why the focus on Israel? How can a few crying Arab mothers on TV cause people to think that the situation in Palestine is more important than those in Tibet, Chechnya, Congo, and Kurdistan ?. Millions of Tibetans, Chechnyans, Rwandans, and Kurds have been massacred; millions of monasteries and mosques obliterated; entire villages slaughtered or gassed. France and Spain, which both ceaselessly criticize Israel, occupy the Basque territory, banning the Basque independence movements. America has yet to pay a dime of reparations either to the Africans it exiled and enslaved or to the Native Americans it slaughtered and betrayed. The Moroccans oppress the Berbers, and carry on a slave trade. The Sudanese Muslims massacre the Southern Sudanese Christians and Animists. The Hashemite minority in Jordan discriminates against the Palestinian majority. Brazilian elites and transnational corporations destroy the lands of indigenous peoples in the Amazon; global oil companies poison whole tribes in Nigeria, stealing their land and resources. Britain continues its occupation of Northern Ireland. China tortures monks and nuns. The list goes on, but the Left is fixated on a few villages on the West Bank of the Jordan, the population of which would all fit into the Bronx.

It's lonely being a Zionist Leftist. It's not like being a black Republican, where at least the racist white Republicans are happy to have you around for window dressing. It's more like being a pro-Affirmative-Action Republican, where everyone immediately doubts your loyalties. It's only okay to be a leftist Zionist in Israel, where I recently spent much of the last month, where at last there are movements of people for gay rights, for liberal economic policies, and yet also for Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism. Somehow, those ideas just don't go together well in the European or American Left. Maybe it's just that it's Caffit that's being targeted and not St. Germain or Williamsburg; Israeli clubkids being massacred at nightclubs, not kids from San Francisco or London. If so, there is reason for hope, because the remedy for the Left's blindness lies within the Left: slow down, recheck your assumptions, and try, with your heart and your head, to find the truth.

The photo is an aerial shot of Jenin, showing the extent of Israeli military activity (bounded by the red rectangle). For a full-size photo, which objectively shows how the media has wildly distorted the extent of the destruction, click here.

[1]       [2]       3

More Politics:

Enraged in the Enron Age Dan Friedman

The rich are ripping us off! What are you gonna do about it?
April, 2002

What's your point? Samuel Hayim Brody
A WEF Protester Tells You Why He Bothers
March, 2002

Faces of Death Thomas Vinciguerra
Zeek interviews the man behind generations of world despots
February, 2002

Counterculture and Democracy Jay Michaelson
The best guarantor of democracy is a vibrant, oppositional counterculture.
January, 2002

Five Groups to be angry at after September 11 Jay Michaelson
Channel your rage at the people responsible for September 11 -- and I don't mean the cavemen in Afghanistan.
December, 2001

May 2002

jay's head