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The Witchhunt and "The Strategic Liability"

Reader comment on item: Israel's Unnecessary War in Lebanon
in response to reader comment: Sophia, i sincerely hope that the readers are not reminded of Marie Antoinette after reading your comments

Submitted by Sophia Gates (United States), Jul 22, 2006 at 16:52

With respect, I'm familiar with those arguments, with the Walt/Mearscheimer Report, and being a leftist myself am deeply familiar with many of the arguments against Israel.

There's no doubt in my mind that the Arab/Islamic world is angered by US support of Israel. However, I believe that the answer to that problem is NOT for America to withdraw support for Israel, but rather to try and build better bridges to the Muslim world. And I would say the same is true in reverse: let there be some opening of minds, some lessening of fear and distrust, toward us, and some honest self-appraisal on both sides.

In the West, and distressingly on the far Left as well as the far Right, much of the sentiment against Israel is in fact not based on principled concern for the Palestinian people, nor on any real understanding of the Middle East, but rather on the antisemitism that is so endemic in our culture. I have heard argument after argument attempting to claim that this isn't true - but in fact most of those arguments, and most of the cut-and-paste propaganda that is littering the internet in particular, and also the Walt/Mearscheimer Report, is based on an incomplete or biased reading of history.

There is nothing about Israel, about Zionism, which desires to harm or dominate Islam, the Arab people, or the Middle East. Unfortunately, both here and in the Middle East, European antisemitic screeds drawn from centuries of endemic bigotry toward the Jewish people - works like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - a lie, nothing more - and Mein Kampf - Hitler's hateful legacy - form people's ideas about Jews and about Israel. In Islam, this isn't helped by the fact that teachings in the Quran portray the Jewish people as apostate.

And the actual experience of war, at least partly caused by bigotry in the first place, and fueled by yet more bigotry, is reinforcing negative attitudes. How could it not? It's a self-fulfilling prophecy! It begins, the Jew is bad, we must fight him; the Jew fights back, there is violence, obviously the Jew is bad, and so on and on and on. Until when? Until we are all dead?

Only education, freedom from violence, and an opening of minds within the Islamic world, and more REAL tolerance and understanding from the West toward Islam, can really help open people's eyes to the fact that Israel is brother of the Arab people and not its enemy, and that the Muslim world is not the enemy of the West - merely different.

I believe it would be deeply wrong for America to abandon Israel, "strategic liability" or no. It is not in our principles to feed beleaguered minorities to the sharks, particularly when they are trying to build, as we have here, a democratic, open and multicultural society. Have they entirely succeeded? Of course not - but they are trying. And some real openmindedness within the M.E. toward the Israelis, for the Jewish people themselves, is vital. And soon, for all too obvious reasons.

I think the other problem, refusing to see Israel and Jewish history for what it is, but rather subjecting the very roots of Israel - in Israel - to revisionism and denial - and rather preferring to see her as a manifestation of colonialism/imperialism, or as an oppressor of indigenous people, rather than as what she is - indigenous people who have returned, most because of desperate trouble - is very much part of the problem. But that too, can be managed if people will give our side of the story a chance to be heard. And OF COURSE this works the other way as well. But I think there's a vast difference in perceptions.

I read on an Arab blog the other day, that there's such a fundamental difference between the Arab left and the Israeli left. A poster had published some pictures of each, the one burning flags and calling for jihad, the other holding signs calling for peace and an end to violence, and lamented that, "to the Israelis we (the Arabs) are a headache, to us, they are a cancer." And as long as that is true, how can we come together? How can we solve our problems?

That said I think Americans are NOT mindful of the history and accomplishments of Islam - which over the centuries have been staggering and incredibly beautiful. There isn't much real education, except among people who seek it out, on the culture of Islam; we see and often react strongly against, that which seems strange and frightening, and neglect to look further and really see the people and what they say and what they do, what they've written and created and built. Those of us who have spent a lifetime involved in Middle Eastern and North African and Central Asian culture, are both aware of its wonders and deeply saddened by the rift between America, Israel - which itself is predominantly Middle Eastern in origin - and the Muslim world, and have spent decades in our own way, trying to somehow bridge the gap. It's horrifying to see beloved cities like Beirut attacked, horrifying also to see Israel threatened again and again with extermination.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of East and West to decide that they want to learn about each other, respect each other, accomodate and love each other - or try and knock each other off. I really hope, we choose the path of light.


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