Jews should learn from African Americans
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in Middle East with No Comments
As Israel fights in Gaza and I, as a Jew, question the morals and effectiveness of this military campaign, as I objected that of the invasion of Lebanon in 2006, I still hear the old appeasement song. I hear it again, again, and again from my Jewish friends. Hitler, Hitler Hitler. Hezbollah is Hitler, Hamas is Hitler, Iran is Hitler, the Palestinians are Hitler, the Arabs are Hitler. They are all Hitler. They are all for the systematic extermination of the Jewish people. And when voices are heard in Europe, USA and other regions; when commentators disapprove of the methods used by the Israeli government when dealing with Hezbollah and Hamas, my Jewish colleagues are quick to dismiss those as opinions of antisemites. In their mind people who disagree with the foreign policy of Israel are simply waiting for the enemies of the Jewish people to complete the work they left undone by the Nazis. For them the Palestinians are not a people with valid claims to a country but instead a neo Nazi group that was created to make sure that Hitler´s final solution gets finally….implemented.
Now let´s compare the situation of the Jews to that of the African Americans for a moment. African Americans deserve to be mentioned in the Jewish debate because they were, as recently as 1960 in USA discriminated against in the most virulent forms. The country that now has an African American President did not allow African Americans to sit in an empty bus seat because it was reserved for whites. And in the previous century African Americans were sold as cattle and enslaved for life, frequently raped and killed without charges. As such the history of African Americans is comparable in horror to that of Jewish history.
Yet somehow, the vast majority of African Americans do not believe that slavery or mass prejudice could ever happen to them again. But unfortunately, many Jews still believe that another dictator intent on wiping the Jewish people out of the planet could arise at any moment in the world. Some believe that this could even happen in the United States. Indeed it is clear that Obama´s Muslim ancestry was an issue for Jews in America as some saw that Hussein middle name as a clear sign that it maybe him who endangers Jewish life as we know it. As unlikely as it sounds I have Jewish friends who still argue that Jews are safer in Israel than in USA or worse that Jews in USA are safer in USA thanks to the existence of Israel, something that if true, it´s probably true the other way around. Most Jews still argue that the State of Israel exists to provide a safe heaven to the Jews of the Diaspora, an argument whose validity has long expired. Now, surrounded by hundreds of millions of enemies, I believe that without the Jews of the Diaspora, and especially without the Jews in the United States the State of Israel would be in worse trouble. As military technology improves and becomes available for all it is hard to see how 5 million Jews can defend themselves against so many rich and well armed enemies. The chances that Jews are picked up country after country by Neo Nazis and exterminated as it happened during WWII is as probable as the chance that the same happens to Gays, Blacks, native Americans or any other minority that used to be discriminated against. Instead, the chances that Islamic Terrorists or Islamic states end up defeating or greatly damaging Israel with the use of advanced weapons over the next 20 years are significant. And it is my opinion that invasions such as that of Lebanon or Gaza increase the possibility of this tragic event happening. If there is ever another holocaust again in my view it will sadly happen in Israel.
The reason why I firmly believe in the right of Israel to exist but oppose the recent policies of the Israeli government including the invasion of Lebanon and of Gaza is that I believe that both invasions are unethical and tactically wrong. They are unethical because in both cases Israel is attacking, killing and greatly damaging the infrastructure of other countries or quasi countries (Lebanon and Gaza) in retaliation for dangers that are minimal. Casualty ratios of 900 to 13 can hardly be called a war regardless of the fact that human life should be impervious to mathematics. In Spain where I live we take higher number of casualties from Islamic and Basque terrorists. I am not happy to live in Madrid 10 minutes from an airport that was partly blown up a year ago with 2 casualties. But I do not want my government to send helicopters to Bilbao to shoot missiles at the Basque terrorists who are guilty of that crime. Such action would only make it more likely for ETA to recruit members and grow. Where 5 are killed, 50 others would arise. Moreover, in asymmetrical warfare of the kind that Israel fights, the danger to Israel is not that it is defeated by the regular armies of its neighbors, the danger is that its neighbors evolve to have better and better terrorist weapons and that next time Israel is hit with 4000 missiles these actually hit their targets. I am concerned that Israel is precipitating the evolution of Hamas into a more sophisticated enemy. And it is only a matter of time for terrorist technology to get better. Terrorism is defeated by making it harder for terrorists to recruit and evolve, not by attacking terrorists hidden among the general population with regular armies and killing hundreds of children whose siblings will grow up with the single minded purpose of destroying you. Terrorism is defeated as we do in Spain by patiently making the case for terrorists weaker, not by military force.
Furthermore I see another risk and that is that as Israel escalates in violence the Muslim world unifies against it. Yes I do know that Fatah hates Hamas and that the Muslim world is divided in all sorts of battles. I do know that in the last 20 years over a million Muslims have died killed by Muslims and less than 10,000 killed by Jews in all sorts of Muslim-Muslim conflicts such as the Iran Iraq war or the constant Sunni and Shia conflicts. But there are many Muslim leaders out there who are waiting for a unifying theme to get to rule whole Muslim world. Osama Bin Laden tries, Ahmadinejad tries, and unfortunately the theme of exterminating Israel grows more popular every year. Indeed Ahmadinejad seems to have better than Osama Bin Laden because he picked Israel and not USA as his stated enemy and now Al Qaeda seems to also be shifting in that direction.
So before invading a country, destroying its infrastructure, because they kidnap some soldiers as in the case of Lebanon, or because they throw potentially lethal rockets after a truce as in the case of Gaza, I think that Israel should think about how easier it makes the life of Islamic terrorist recruiters when it retaliates with tremendous force. Terrorists feed on anger and invasions, air bombardments, massive killings are certainly valid reasons for the attacked population to be angry about. Jews should learn from African Americans and realize that it is possible to be discriminated in the past, to be hated in the past, to be enslaved in the past, to be abused in the past and somehow…not be hated in the future. That if you lose a few soldiers is bad, but creating the conditions to lose your whole country is worse. Jews seem to talk about history as if it is destiny when instead I believe it is the destiny of the current generation of Jews to change history forever and make peace. Jews should learn to distinguish from the people who hate them because of territorial claims and the rest of the world who temporarily hates them because of the way they react against people who have territorial claims. These claims, while not valid in the case of the Lebanese, are pretty valid in the case of the Syrians and the Palestinians and as Jews we must acknowledge this and move back towards Oslo. Jews should learn that the reason why most people in secular Europe dislike us Jews is for the aggressive policies of the State of Israel. Jews should not confuse disagreement with Israel´s foreign policy with the virulent racism that characterized societies of 70 years ago. This type of racist thinking is historically over. It´s over against African Americans and its over against Jews. Indeed it´s so over that in the current anti Israel demonstrations in Europe the right wing parties, traditionally known as Neo Nazis were not present. Moreover I am convinced that if tomorrow Israel and Palestine learn to live in peace most people around the world will forget about both countries. They will be as relevant to the world as Croatia and Serbia are today. An irrelevance that is surprisingly great as a country tries to rebuild its future in a peaceful manner.
The present dislike for Jews around the world is not because of rampant global antisemitism but because most non Jews and non Muslims believe that Israel is reacting too strongly and too unfairly to the aggression it receives. Of course Israel has the right to defend itself. But while at the beginning of its history the world saw Israel as a country trying to survive, now the world sees Israel as a country using excessive force against the right of another country to exist. The best hope for Israel is that Palestine has a strong leader, that Israel can deal with in matters of security. Even as enemies Israel and USA are better off when the enemy is a state and not a terrorist entity. Until such leader arises Israel will not be safe but Israel must know that this leader will be somebody that is hard to deal with. History has many former terrorists who became respected leaders including some of the founders of the State of Israel. A strong leader who focuses on peace maybe difficult to deal with, but it will not be hard as fighting the Hamas Hydra that Israel is currently confronting.
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Peter on January 14, 2009 ·
Martin, what a courageous post ! Thank you.
You are perfectly right! As westerners, we do not care about religions or about who does not eat pig, or not drink wine, or have Abraham as a prophet, … we care about “justice” and , yes Israel, is not reacting in proportion of the received offenses. And yes, that will lead to even bigger problems !
You mentionned the necessity of a palestinian leader (and I agree) but Israel will also have to “give something” as all can see that in the 360 km2 of the Gaza Strip live more than 1,4 mln people ??!! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_Strip)
Marc Arza on January 14, 2009 ·
Do you really doubt that Shoah could happen again? If tomorrow morning Israel disarmed itself you would see mass murder of Jews tomorrow afternoon.
I just read today that almost half of young Spaniards (I am a Catalan) have prejudices against Jews, and 99% has never met a Jew personally!
Imagine…! It is not difficult to understand the Jewish paranoia.
Liam on January 14, 2009 ·
Martin, I would like to know your thoughts about this post, it comes from a blog you partly own:
I believe is pure antisemitism.
Marc Arza on January 14, 2009 ·
Then we fully agree. It is so difficult to build a moderate opinion when guns are still shooting.
I consider myself a friend of Israel and the Jewish people and, considering that Israel is more than capable of deffending itself I am deeply worried about the Sparta syndrome the country suffers since the Yom Kippur war.
I want a strong Israel and I understand that in the Middle East the contry will never be able to play western standard rules (the context is so different), but the militarisation of its society could end up killing the Zionist dream.
Is peace possible? Frankly speaking, I have a lot of faith in Rahm Emanuel. Hawks are always damn good doves!
andres ostropolsky on January 15, 2009 ·
your comparison is ingenous, yet not adequate.
Your article has a lot of simplification while the conflict in Gaza (and in Middle East in general) is far more complex.
I think that in order to make a good diagnosis of the situation is imperative to be really cold minded, and i think it’s not your case
Iñigo on January 15, 2009 ·
Creo que en España hasta los años noventa ha habido una represión hacia los vascos, después de entran en la democracia todavía existía en los cuerpos de seguridad del estado (mayoritariamente en la guardia civil) muchos altos cargos de mentalidad franquista y dictatorial.
La Guardia civil hasta hace cuatro días ha sido un cuerpo de seguridad medio paramilitar, en Euskadi su único fin ha sido mantener la unidad de España; antes de ser un cuerpo policial de seguridad ciudadana.
La guardia civil históricamente ha sido una gran generador de etarras, imponían su fuerza a base de palizas, si hablabas vasco te insultaban o te despreciaban. Uno de los últimos representantes de la vieja guardia fue Enrique Villar (delegado de gobierno), cada vez que hablaba los partidos nacionalistas ganaban votos.
Pero desde hace poco veo un cambio generacional en la Guardia Civil.
Ahora en un control intentan hablarte en euskera algunas palabras (impensable hace treinta años) pronuncian bien tu nombre.
En definitiva hay un buen rollo, un cambio de chip, puede ser que reciban algunas consignas desde el ministerio del interior.
Un anciano dirigente del IRA dijo en una entrevista recientemente, que el mayor reclutador del IRA fue el ejército británico. Por ejemplo antes de los sucesos del Bloody Sunday el IRA era débil, después era muy fuerte. No había que buscar gente, la gente venía sola.
Te deseo desde el Pais vasco de todo corazón que Israel viva en paz y en armonía con sus vecinos los Palestinos.
שלום עליכם Shalom aleichem
imtb on January 15, 2009 ·
I think your post completely shows how unfortunately many people in the world misunderstand the current situation that Israel is in. I think that the comparison that jews are making between the extreme muslim world (Iran and its fighting arms the hizballah and the hamas) and Hitler are correct, but not because their ideology bear any resemblance to Hiter’s but because of the world reaction (or lack of reaction) to leaders that say they want to wipe Israel off the planet and are taking serious actions such as building nuclear weapons to get there.
What people do not understand is that the situation Israel is in today is not very different than in 1948. Israel is in survival mode. Between Hizballah and Hamas, almost the entire country is under the range of their missiles. That means that the entire population of Israel is exposed to deadly attacks on a daily basis by determined enemies. In a war for survival ethics takes less of a priority, and while Israel is extremely careful about not hurting civilians, it puts the life of its own soldiers and citizens at a higher priority.
Liam on January 15, 2009 ·
Is good to know that you will address the issue and I´m very interested in knowing what will happen with it. Probably, many readers of Alt 1040 and your blog will too.
Andres B on January 15, 2009 ·
I applaud your balanced position and clear arguments.
Whether those are the most precise answers or not to the matter at hand (infinitely complex, we know), your discourse stands up among the visceral reactions that, as you clearly describe, Jews show when confronted with dissent.
We need more of this kind of voices and messages.
Happy 2009 from Mexico.
Gaetan on January 15, 2009 ·
Amen to a balanced personal point of view !!
Ouriel Ohayon on January 15, 2009 ·
Martin, the whole fondation of your post is not correct. ETA does not want the extermination of Spain and of the Spanish people. They just want their region. Hamas and Islamic organizations are aiming at the extermination of jews in Israel and around the world. I invite you to read their declaration of principle so you can understand what motivates them.
Now i would like to understand how the comparison can be relevant?
Ouriel Ohayon on January 15, 2009 ·
Yes Martin, that is correct but there are two major differences: the islamic terrorism does not want to erase spain off the map. it was a message to the western world. and it was concentrated on punctual events, when the rockets from hamas has been shot to israel continuously for eight years, even after Israel backed off from gaza, leaving them a free land to start building their country.
The number of casualty is hidding different intentions and motivations.
as a side note i would like to add having lived in europe, the us and Israel that as a jew i feel definitely safer than any other place in the world. I am not afraid to be insulted in the streets, or attacked in the corner of the streets because i look jewish, or see a synagogue burned.
It is hard to realize that until you have actually spent some time there
Ouriel Ohayon on January 15, 2009 ·
Thanks for precision of the spanish situation i was not aware of it. i will inquire on it.
i agree with you on the fact that Israeli needs a peaceful palestine next to him. this is indeed expressing a large majority of the public opinion.
You ll agree with me however this is not feasible when the other side does not want you to exist. I am not sure Hamas will ever want peace and i am not sure the Hamas will ever stay.
I believe that Hamas has been weakened by this war both in its infrastructure and in the palestinian public opinion (but also in the arabic opinion, since for the first time even a summit could not be hold by the arab league who cares less and less about palestinians than they actually claim).
you may have heard about the violent conflict that happened in the west bank last week between fatah and hamas members. I believe this conflict will come to light even stronger once this is over.
Unfortunately the poor palestinian people is taken in hostage in this terrible situation.
My deep belief is that economy will be the key to peace. but in the meantime dealing with fanatics is going to be a challenge. If you ask me where the source of the problem is: Iran. They make the recruitement of new terrorist possible by funding Hamas.
Once Hamas will be out of money, they will be out of sustainable arguments. Pressuring Iran, Is killing hamas. And killing hamas is giving a new hope to the palestinian people and the region.
This is where the international community can REALLY make a difference. Keeping making declaration and sending humanitarian help (mostly stolen by Hamas leaders) is not putting Palestine under life support.
José Luis on January 15, 2009 ·
Martin, I also believe in Israel right to exist and share most of your opinions regarding this matter. I am a gentile, and consider you to be a well informed person. So that is what I would like to complete your information. In France, Le Pen supporters have marched along leftist demonstrators against Israel. Both share a deep anti-Semitism that goes beyond the current situation.
Manuel on January 15, 2009 ·
Martin, very good post.
Just a quick comment on a sentence you wrote above:
“Indeed it´s so over [anti-semitism, or “anti-jews thinking”] that in the current anti Israel demonstrations in Europe the right wing parties, traditionally known as Neo Nazis were not present. ”
Let me just say that the right wing parties are not the ones traditionally against the jews, nor are they the ones known as Neo Nazi’s. It’s the EXTREME RIGHT that you are referring to.
But in any case, the extreme right and neo nazi parties, or such scum, has been almost erradicated in most of Europe and elsewhere. They’ve been reduced to no more than hooligans and petty-crime gangs.
What has really grown in the past, and getting to be a significant problem in the hate towards Jews, is the extreme LEFT groups or parties, in almost any one of their different “flavours” (nationalists, “real communists”, anarchists, etc.). These parties seem to be always more prone to Palestinian and muslim views than Jewish defence, and they gather a lot of militancy from muslim inmigrants in different parts of Europe. It could be that these extreme groups are the new ones to be watching now.
Krikor Ohannessian on January 16, 2009 ·
I do agree partially with your post content but at the same time disagree because when you live in the hottest spot of the world (the middle east) you will have a different perspective for these major issues as it is much more complicated than what people see in the media, and politics in the middle east should be read between the lines.
I remember reading a previous posting of yours about the site you launched when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, do you think Lebanese will accept a moderate person like you when 1/3 of the Lebanese population (Shiites) are raised on the principle that Israel is the enemy and they want to wipe it from existence.
I am a Lebanese citizen but originally i am Armenian, i was born and raised in Lebanon, but when you take a look at the history of Armenians, it is somehow similar to the Jews, thru history they paid very hard for their beliefs, 2 million Armenians were massacred by Turkish army in 1914 , look at their diaspora today, look at the situation in Armenia, look how things evolved thru history in the daily life of Armenians, another conflict they have is the nagorno-karabakh issue, and still issue are not finished with Turkish government, they still are not accepting the genocide and in few years Armenians will lose this cause, because after 100 years of any massacre, it is folded and put on the shelve.
During the 70’and early 80’Armenians had also many groups (called at that time terrorists) trying to do against the Turkish people, army and government what the ETA is and was doing, what Hizbollah was doing to the IDF before leaving the south of Lebanon, what hamas is doing to the state of Israel, what Kurdish were doing against Saddam Hussein and the Turkish Army, what Bin Laden followers are doing in Saudi Arabia, what the Radical Islamic groups are doing in Egypt and so on…
At the end Armenians stopped these kinds of operations and they are trying to get what they want by negotiating with Turkey and in a civilized way, but so far they did not reach to anything, while they won the war in Nagorno Karabakh because they fought for it and took it back by force.
I am not saying that using force is always the right choice, but sometimes you have to show your muscles so your enemy can recalculate his options.
I do believe that it is not about Palestinians and Lebanese or Israelis , the hidden fight is much bigger than all of these, I am sure you are aware, it is the US-Saudi versus the Iranian-Syrian, without forgetting the US-EU fight in the region also.
Look again what happened in Lebanon in 2007, when a Palestinian terrorist group slaughtered more than 25 soldiers from the Lebanese army and the Army had to fight back in the north of Lebanon in the refugee camp of naher el bared , can you imagine if the Lebanese army did not use force, what was the situation today.
Israel evacuated its army from the south since 2000, and this is what Hizbollah wanted since their creation in 1982, and Hizbollah says that they forced Israel to leave the south of Lebanon after their almost daily suicide operations against the idf, while Israel says that it was a choice to make at that time by Ehud Barak. Everyone wants to show its force and muscles to the other party. And today after finishing with the south of Lebanon issue, Hizbollah want to free Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem while religion wise the Shiite are not linked to it, and in May 2007 they used their weapons to gain control of the Capital Beirut against other rival political parties. And had a huge deviation of their major cause which is to fight Israel but it is a Syrian/Iranian scenario to keep on going in the status quo of the region, so everybody is using power without control.
Another weird issue is Syria, that has been proclaiming the Golan heights since 1967 and since that date, they did not open fire to gain 1 cm back of it and in the news they are always fighting for it, then you hear suddenly in the news that they are negotiating with Israel in Ankara, and ask their supporting Lebanese parties to fight Israel all the time, is not it weird?
When Syria was ruling Lebanon from 1990 till 2005 with the benediction of the USA, they had a treaty of common bi-countries defence, and when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, Syria was just looking and sending canned tuna for the Lebanese people instead of sending their Mig fighters to help Lebanon.
Without forgetting how Syria then in 2005 was forced by international pressure to take its troops out of Lebanon after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and strengthened its position with Iran at that time, by mutual visits of both presidents Assad and Ahmadinajad .
Then when the USA backed-up part of the Lebanese political parties, Syrians changed their path and had a quick agreement back again with the US in order to gain control but this time indirectly over Lebanon thru local political parties. So Syria is using its political power instead of its army.
Today Arabs want to meet in order to discuss the Gaza issue, and they are not able to meet because between themselves, they don’t like each other, so how do you think they will be able to fight and win against the same enemy (whoever the enemy is) if they are not able to meet just to talk. Also check the control of the Arabs over the world oil; with all this power they have, they are not able to make their voice get to the right place.
One small clarification here, about Lebanese and Arab, for those who don’t know, Lebanese are not Arabs, they are Phoenicians
Endless examples that each one of them can demonstrate a different case and scenario and when you dig more you will get to a dead end, because we are turning in a circle since this part of the world was found and Israel will keep on using its force and power without control as long they are not feeling secure.
Lebanon today is a mosaic of 32 religions and ethnic groups, some of them wants the Saudi support, some the USA and some the European and some Syrian/Iranian, while there is a very big crunch that wants to live in peace without fighting anyone and don’t really care about religion or color or ethnicity or believes, all they want is this one-time life to be lived cool and hip and I am one of them.
Jaco on January 19, 2009 ·
I agree with almost everything you wrote, just that I will like to read, if possible, what is your understanding of a wise answer to the Kassams?.
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fede on January 14, 2009 ·
the day i see a protest or a peaceful manifestation of palestinians against terrorism that day i will agree with you till that day in which a silent majority stops accepting the acts of a few crazy radicals there will be no way in which you could compare african american with Palestinians or Arabs