The latest assault by Israel on Gaza has furthered the process in which Israel is losing support worldwide and also among Jews in the US, especially among the young, who do not buy in to the idea that Israel faces some existential threat that requires massive and disproportionate attacks on Palestinians. Instead what they see is a reactionary government backed by the US that is using its massive military power to oppress people that they have displaced from their homes.
Movements like Jewish Voice for Peace and Open Hillel are breaking away from the idea that they must be silent when Israel does things that violate international norms. They argue that the only way that there will be peace in the Middle East is if Palestinians are granted the rights and dignity due to them and Israel is required to conform to the same standards as any other nation.
Lawrence Wechsler describes the toll that is taking on Jews in the US, for so long a major progressive force in US politics and who have been at the forefront of social justice movements, to now be called upon to support a state that acts counter to the very ideals that they have long held dear.
I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I’d put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures—which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning’s four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?
For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis (and here I am speaking of the vast majority of the population who somehow go along with the antics of their leaders, year after year) manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp.
He points out something that is often overlooked. We marvel at the absurdity of bloody conflicts between groups split by razor-thin differences. But the Palestinian-Israeli divide is barely less ridiculous.
And I’m tired, finally, of hearing people marveling at the insane sectarian rifts between Shiites and Sunnis, or Serbs and Bosnians, or Tutsis and Hutus, as if they themselves could never fall into such primordial, atavistic blood feuds. For what else is the Palestinian/Israeli divide at this point, these two Semitic Peoples of the Book, than just one more inchoate, incomprehensible, sectarian vendetta?
As a further indication of how Israel is losing support, look at this interview of a British Channel 4 newsperson interviewing an Israeli spokesperson. No major US media figure would even press an Israeli spokesperson like this because they would be yanked off the air immediately. The UK as a nation is also extremely sympathetic to Israel but this interview shows how increasingly isolated its disproportionate attacks towards Palestinians are making it.
In the US, unconditional support for Israel is now found mainly in Congress and the mainstream media and Rapture-focused evangelical Christians. But even congresspersons are being challenged on the support for Israel by ordinary citizen, such as Connecticut senator Chris Murphy who at a picnic was grilled by his constituents about his co-sponsorship of the recent resolution supporting Israel.
Expect to see more like that, with other PEP senators (Progressive Except for Palestine) like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders being questioned as to when they will stop groveling to the Israel lobby and do what is right.