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Friday, June 13, 2014

Yes, I Support Israel, Or, Why I Buy Israeli Carrots

Israeli flag at Masada by Laurel Dunay Source
I've very consciously never posted a lengthy blog saying that I support Israel. There are several reasons.

1.) I like to say things that might get heard, and I don't think saying "I support Israel" would be heard.

Some would say, "You are saying this only to deflect condemnation for your inborn Polish, Catholic anti-Semitism."

Some would say "If a Polish Catholic like you is saying something positive about Israel, it's because you have been sold out to the all-powerful Jews."

Some would say, "We always knew you were secretly Jewish."

I have received email saying some variation of all of these criticisms.

2.) I don't really feel like it's my job to say "I support Israel." Israel does have a powerful lobby, and nothing I do or say is going to contribute in any significant way.

3.) Support for Israel strikes me as such an overtly obvious position, stating it publicly feels, to me, like saying "Yes I believe that there is such a thing as gravity."

Yesterday I went shopping at my local grocery store. I had a choice between five pounds of carrots from California or five pounds of carrots from Israel. Both were offered at the same price. Though I usually strive to buy produce locally, and to buy American, I chose the Israeli carrots, as I have been doing since I first noticed them in the market.

I mentioned this on Facebook. A Facebook friend responded, "How utterly obnoxious." Her words shocked and hurt me, and made me realize that in spite of all my reservations, I would blog my support for Israel, as anonymous, ineffectual, and insignificant as it is.

Below will be my random, idiosyncratic, and incomplete thoughts about why I support Israel, and why I assess boycotts of Israel as anti-Semitic.

The selective outrage exhibited by those who target Israel for condemnation strikes me as so outrageous that it is utterly unworthy of anything but intellectual and ethical contempt.

North Korea, a nation that is one big concentration camp. The nightmare fate of 170,000 Untouchables in India. The treatment of Native people in Latin America. Gender apartheid throughout the Muslim world. The selective destruction of female fetuses in Hindu, Muslim and Confucian Asian, and among their populations abroad, creating what Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen called a hundred million missing women and girls. The government of Burma, that allowed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to die in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, and refused to allow aid to enter the country. The open market in little girls in Cambodia. Darfur. Boko Haram. I could go on.

In the face of all that human misery, anti-Israel activists focus on a country slightly larger than New Jersey, my own state, a country you can drive across in the daylight hours of one day, leaving generous time for three meals and bathroom breaks.

The obvious ethical and intellectual question here is, "Huh?"

The obvious response is "Give me a break."

The obvious suggestion is "What are you on?"

My second idiosyncratic and undisciplined response to criticism of Israel. I've actually been to Israel, and I have lived among Muslim Arabs from the Middle East – aka "Palestinians" – my entire life.

If Israel really were the simulacrum of Auschwitz that its critics insist it is, yes, it would be appropriate to focus outrage on Israel.

Here's the thing. I've been to Auschwitz. I've studied Auschwitz. I've published a prize winning scholarly book that cites Auschwitz. Israel is no Auschwitz.

I know Muslim Arabs from Israel, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. I've spent time with them in New Jersey, California, and in Israel. I've been in their homes. I've shared their secrets. I've gone over their photograph albums. I've met grandmothers and new born babes. I've met pillars of the community with white collar jobs and young men who say that they were imprisoned in Israel for terrorist activities. I've spent time with members of the same family over the course of generations.

Muslim Arabs are not Auschwitz inmates. Auschwitz is not part of their life experience. They are, for the most part, healthy, well-fed, well-adjusted college students, college professors, pharmacists, jewelers, furniture salesmen, dentists, and slackers.

I've been to Israel. I've spent time in Jewish areas, Arab Muslim areas, and mixed areas. It's not Nazi Germany. Again, stating this I feel like I'm saying "Yes, gravity is real."

Next time someone tells you that Israel is just like Nazi Germany and Arabs live under conditions comparable to Auschwitz in Israel, please ask for evidence. And show it to the whole world.

There is no evidence because this claim is just not true.

Some say that terrorism is proof that Israel is comparable to Nazi Germany. Conditions for Arab Muslims are so bad, these folks insist, that Arabs were forced, forced, forced I tell you, to become terrorists.

To blow up school buses full of children, as happened near Be'er Ora. To throw a crippled man in a wheelchair into the Mediterranean Sea, has happened to Leon Klinghoffer. To murder Olympic athletes, as happened in Munich. To stab to death a three month old baby girl, Hadas Fogel. To train their children to become suicide bombers. To indoctrinate their children, using official school curricula, into hating Jews as subhuman apes and pigs.

Yes. All of these atrocities, committed by Muslim Arabs, with the financial support and religious blessing of the Muslim world, are proof … that Jews are horrible people. Because Jews are responsible. Jews forced Muslim Arabs to do these bad things.

How did Jews force Muslim Arabs to do these bad things?

Jews "stole" "Arab land."

Okay, two things here.

One. I'm Polish. Just about every single Polish person I know is the period at the end of a sentence that includes the words "dispossession," "concentration camp," "slave labor," "exile," "displaced persons camp," "redrawn map," and "genocide."

Talk to any Polish person with any consciousness of his or her history and you will discover that that person standing in front of you who seems so American was born in a displaced persons camp, or had parents who were inmates in a concentration camp, or had grandparents who were sent to Siberia, or was the product of a vast immigration driven by starvation and injustice, an immigration that included labor under conditions that compare unfavorably to the conditions antebellum slaves endured.

If they are just a tad more conscious they will be able to tell you about great grandparents who fought the Russians in 1863 or the Russians in 1920 or the Ukrainians and the Germans in the interwar period.

We had a country, and it was stolen from us, countless times. Our border was redrawn. Areas that had been Polish for hundreds of years are now Ukrainian or Lithuanian.

Germans were similarly dispossessed after WW II. There were mass movements of impoverished, war-battered people who lost everything they owned and faced rape and starvation, barbed wire and homelessness. That's *normal* for us. It has been for hundreds of years.

My fellow Polish American writer John Guzlowski was born in a DP camp. His father was in Buchenwald. His mother was a slave laborer. Germans, Ukrainians and Russians tore his family's worlds apart. My fellow blogger Otto Gross's German grandparents were exiled to Siberia. Lithuanian American writer Daiva Markelis' family members were also in Siberia.

I could go on and on and on and on.

None of us use our family's nightmares as an excuse to become terrorists.

Rather, terrorism has been an approved method of Jihad for 1400 years. It didn't start with the recognition of the state of Israel. Mohammed himself declared, "I have been made victorious through terror."

And … about that insistence that Israel is a modern invention of European Jews colonizing the Middle East. Jews have lived in the land of Israel continuously for four thousand years. Yes, the political entity Israel has come and gone and come and gone again. But the people have been there. Genetic research has shown this multiple times – check out Y chromosomal Aaron.

Yes, many Israelis descend from European Jews, but many Israelis descend from Middle Eastern Jews who were kicked out of countries like Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, etc. My student Gidon was born in Iraq and spoke Arabic as a first language. Iraq was an inhospitable place for Jews and he and his family moved to Israel.

Anti-Israel activists focus on the creation of Israel while ignoring the creation of Pakistan. Why?

Pakistan is a completely artificial creation. There was nothing comparable to Pakistan before it was invented in the 1940s. The Pakistan that was invented then no longer exists; "East Pakistan," after suffering from atrocities so massive they are sometimes assessed as a genocide, atrocities inflicted by their Muslim brothers in "West Pakistan," is now Bangladesh.

Pakistan was invented so that sub-continental Muslims could have their own country. The invention of Pakistan resulted in the displacement of 14.5 million people. Fourteen point five million people. Fourteen point five million people! Hundreds of thousands, or perhaps a million – no one knows for sure – died.

Why do the anti-Israel critics not SEE their own hypocrisy on this? If you want to protest a completely artificial nation whose creation displaced millions of impoverished peasants, and resulted in the deaths of uncounted multitudes, why do you give Pakistan a free pass? Why? This is not a rhetorical question.

Further, Pakistan is widely cited as one of the worst countries on earth to live in. It is a source of terrorism. It is cited as the most likely cause of the next world war. It has no concept of human rights.

Tell me again why Pakistan gets a free pass?

I'm veering off into a rant, which I knew I would if I tried to insist that gravity exists, and that criticism of Israel defies intellectual and ethical standards.

Some say that anti-Semitism in the Muslim world is all because of Israel. Facts are not on their side. Anti-Semitism has existed in Islam from the first. In the Koran, Allah turns Jews into apes and pigs. The Koran tells Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews. Jews are among the "worst enemies" of the Muslims, the Koran says. Muslims must pray five times a day not to become like Jews "who have incurred your wrath." A hadith, or saying of Mohammed, says that the end of the world will not arrive until stones say to Muslims, "There is a Jew hiding behind me; kill him." "Whenever a Jew is killed, it is for the benefit of Islam," wrote Sufi jurist Sirhindi (d. 1621)

Yes, Christianity has a long history of anti-Semitism. Yes, Christian texts have been used as supports for anti-Semitism. The most notorious example is Matthew 27:25. There has also been a healthy resistance to anti-Semitism in Christianity, a resistance that goes back centuries and was led by the Vatican. One such example can be found here; there are many more.

The point is that Christianity offers a serious resistance to religiously-inspired anti-Semitism and such resistance would benefit Islam and Muslims. The destruction of the state of Israel would benefit neither Islam nor Muslims.

Israel is not responsible for either terrorism or anti-Semitism, and terrorism and anti-Semitism are neither natural nor inevitable. Terrorism and anti-Semitism are worldwide problems for Islam, they always have been, and categorical rejection of both should and must come from Muslims themselves and the world will be a better place for Muslims and non-Muslims when that happens.

There's more to be said, much more. As I promised, this post is random, incomplete, and idiosyncratic. 

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