There is scarcely a rejoinder made to critics (such as myself) of Israel’s brutal occupation that does not include something along the lines of, “Why do these people make such a fuss over the deaths of a few Palestinians, but they make hardly a peep at the deaths of dozens or thousands of Muslims at the hands of other Muslims in Iran or Afghanistan?” Implicit in such questions is the idea that we on the Left don’t actually care about the lives of Muslims, except as a political prop with which to attack Israel. Our caring for the lives and deaths of Palestinians is false, since it is motivated by ulterior, political motives.
To this sort of critique, I have a simple answer: our protests against Israeli state violence against stateless Arabs is not some fey, New Age-y all-life-is-sacred thing, nor is it some abstract moral calculus of the values of Arab lives as opposed to others, nor is it an anti-semitism which focuses on “Jewish violence” to the exclusion of other violence. We care, rather selfishly, more for our moral beings than we care for the lives of particular people. We do not know those who have been killed. Nor do we know those who killed. We do not care whether the dead are labeled as “militant” or not (a sly insinuation that adds a beard and an AK-47 to the mental picture and thus softens the extra-judicial murder, mutating it into a “targeted killing”), nor whether the Israeli who pushed the button was a family man with Brooklyn-accented English. We do not particularly care for these personal details. Rather, we protest the blood on our hands!
Our entire government buys into the mad policy of stealing yet more Arab land (accelerated during the Oslo “peace” process), and our tax money goes to the weapons killing those who resist. The fact that some of those murdered are sure to be bad guys does not really matter. In fact, that is a red herring, and no better than the logic of the terrorists: send a human bomb into a restaurant and some of the dead are sure to be guilty.
The notion that we protest Israeli killings because we place more value on Arab life than Jewish is absurd. We are not crying over dead Palestinians (except in an abstract, principled opposition to killing, which applies to all victims of violence) but over our own bloodied conscience. We protest the Israeli state murders and not others (such as those carried out by Hamas, or the Taliban, or the Janjaweed) for the simple reason that we as American citizens are directly implicated in these crimes, and not those others: our hands are forcibly pushed into the blood congealing in the dusty streets of Gaza. I can only ask these apologists for Israeli occupation: why is it our duty, as moral people, to pay as much attention to the crimes of others as to our own crimes? In what moral or religious tradition are people commanded to see to the wicked deeds of others before attending to one’s own wickedness? Israeli crimes are the beam in our own eye, the beam we are being urged to overlook in favor of the motes (or beams) in the eyes of others.
Israeli extra-judicial murders could not occur without the complicity of the United States. Therefore, we American citizens are accessories to murder. It is this disgusting fact that makes us on the Left scream bloody murder: the same reason we condemn the deaths of Somalis, and Afghanis, and Colombians, and all other victims of weapons supplied by the United States for some august cause in some horrific civil war which Washington found to be useful enough to exploit.
To be a moral person one begins from oneself and works outward. To be a moral nation a people follows the same basic principle.
Let's hear it for the one state solution, for a democratic, secular state of Israel/Palestine.