Mondoweiss: The recent crimetastrophe in Gaza has meant a month of being glued to the news, dry-mouthed, nauseated, furious and sad. It has meant posting endlessly on Facebook, feeling helpless and useless but noticing more support than I’ve ever had before, and making many more friends and contacts than the few I’ve lost. My family is even getting in on it, with my little sister particularly passionate, despite the fact that it’s scandalizing her Zionist in-laws.
It has also meant more contact with pro-Zionist trolls who pop up constantly with well-scripted talking points, defenses of mass slaughter, denials of Palestinian peoplehood, and (rather ironic) accusations of the type of bigotry known as anti-Semitism.
The most recent one posted a Huffington Post article called “Liberal Anti-Semitism,” which features several paragraphs of hand-wringing about how, when the author hears criticism of Israel, “I get so overwhelmed by the flood of thinly veiled Jew-loathing that I can’t respond to anything else.”
She then outlines five reasons why supporters of Palestinian human rights give her the heebie jeebies.
It’s like shooting fish in a barrel to respond to each of them in turn, but I did so anyway in order to give ammunition to people who are new to this conflict and may be intimidated by this type of rhetoric. Here is my rebuttal:
1. The failure to focus on the log in our own eye.
I have been a critic of American foreign policy since before I knew who occupied whom in Palestine/Israel. Just because I happen to be talking about Palestine right now doesn’t mean I don’t have other passions or interests.
2. Our silence when it comes to the role of the surrounding countries, who want the Palestinians to remain right where they are as pawns in a global power struggle.
As far as Palestinian refugees having a hard time in surrounding countries (which is often true), it wasn’t Jordan or Syria who created the Palestinian refugee crisis, and the US government pretty much pays the Egyptian army to make life difficult for Palestinians. Talk about a “failure to focus on the log in our own eye…”
3. Our indifference to Jewish post traumatic dynamics and conditions that reactivate trauma.
You have no reason to assume anyone is indifferent to Jewish or Israeli suffering without any evidence other than the fact that they support equal human rights for Palestinians without explicitly, every single time, adding a disclaimer that satisfies you.
(I admit I am sometimes cavalier about the actual threat Israelis feel right now, compared to the horrific violence the Israeli army has been inflicting on mostly innocent Palestinians, with 90+% Jewish Israeli support. There is really no comparison when it comes to suffering, and yet Israelis want the world to feel Israel’s (overblown) fear more than Palestinians’ unimaginable loss and pain. And it’s hard for me to take a grown adult seriously when they do that. It’s so blind and racist.)
Whatever collective PTSD Israelis may have, we should all have empathy for that. But past trauma does not exempt one from any accountability for criminal behavior. Any more than someone who was abused as a child should be free to abuse whomever they like without censure.
4. A double standard for Middle Eastern Countries.
Last I checked, we weren’t giving Syria $3 billion per year in foreign aid or blanket political cover to do whatever they like. And still, I haven’t been silent about Syria, and neither have any of the people of conscience whom I know. Though I’m not an expert on Syria and really have no clue what to do about it.
But look, if you want Israel to be treated like an out of touch, bloated-with-oil-and/or-Western-aid-money autocracy, or held to no higher standard than the Taliban, please stop calling it “The Only Democracy in the Middle East” with “The Most Moral Army in the World” and “shared values” with the West. You can’t have it both ways.
5. Our lack of comparable passion about other suffering in the world.
So you can read everyone’s mind? You know what kind of passion we have about all the suffering in the world? Must be a neat trick. Teach it to me some time.
Personally, I focus on Israel/Palestine more than other conflicts because (a) I lived there for two years and have a lot of friends directly involved, (b) It is the largest recipient of US military aid in the world, and (c) It seems there is some tantalizing hope of changing things, especially through educating fellow Americans, who have mostly been brainwashed into demonizing one side and thus being blinded to a lot of basic (and very disturbing) truths about what’s being done in our name with our tax dollars.
I suspect part of the reason other people focus on it is because there is a lot of support for Israel in America, and it gets reported on the news in (often wrong or out-of-context) detail, and there always seems to be a “peace process” or a war blasted across the news, and it’s been going on for decades, so people get invested in the long, drawn-out soap opera / narrative. Plus, many people have read the Bible, so we feel some connection to the land — the River Jordan and Jerusalem and all that — more than, say, the Sudan, about which most Americans know absolutely nothing. Doesn’t mean it’s right. But it’s a more plausible explanation than the fact that we’re all — including all the major news networks — secretly anti-Semitic.
Palestinians are also educated and social media savvy, so they are a bit better at getting their message out than some people in other conflict zones. Plus they’ve asked the world to come to their aid through a BDS movement that can get literally everyone in the world involved, even if our governments won’t do crap. A good model for other oppressed people throughout the world.
By implying that because I focus disproportionately on this subject, I must be a closet anti-Semite, you are simply throwing around slander in an apparent attempt to silence me. Sorry, it won’t work.
The best part of the article was this quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which we would all do well to keep in mind:
“If only it were all so simple, if only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
Pamela Olson lived in beautiful Palestine for two years during and after the second Intifada and is deeply humbled by that unearned privilege, given how many millions of Palestinians are not even allowed to visit. She is willing to send a free PDF copy of her book, Fast Times in Palestine, to anyone who wishes to learn more about what life is like under Israeli occupation. You can contact her through her website to request one.