Wednesday, June 27, 2007

screaming bloody murder

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.

1 comment:

Starfire said...

As usual, I am impressed by the articulation of your writing, something rare to be found in this age of 'sound-bites' and entertainment passing for information. Even though I am not totally in agreement with what you are saying, at least I can see what you are saying without feeling I'm being 'lead somewhere' by it.

What you say regarding red herrings has some truth- in these political battles, even though I personally am morally opposed to the use of violence, the presence of violence shouldn't blind us to underlying facts, by it's shock factor. Of course violence is shocking- but it has been around as long as people. The question is whether the situation justifies it or not, whether it is morally defensible violence, or simply indefensible.

I'll admit, even though I can see that it has grown though factors such as Western neglect/self-centeredness and, conversely, the desire of their clerical class to keep a privileged position in a secularising world, I do feel threatened by Islamic extremism. When I say, 'I', I mean not just myself, but also all those I care for, especially minorities such as the Christians and Baha'is in the middle East, or people who just want a peaceful life.

To an extent this leads me to a sympathetic position with those opposing such people, wherever they are- they are 'me', if you like. I suppose I am in this sense an internationalist, though I can't pretend to sympathise with everyone.

It seems to me that we are all built this way, with our sympathies. What is important is that we are not led to follow someone's personal agenda by this. The fact that some things prick our consciences should not lead us to have the 'wool' pulled over our eyes by those who have more hate of their enemies than a desire to build a stable reconciliation with them.

In this case, the enemies must be those who really don't wish for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but instead wish for the dominating victory of one or the other. I hate to say it, but the so-called 'two-state solution' could even institutionalise the hatred (actually a relatively young one, if you start looking at the events from 1948 onwards instead of from BC 1948 onwards), if there are not enough trade and cultural links.

So let's build a multi-state, secular, Middle-Eastern solution, where people relate without their religion being the dominant factor. They can even embrace one another's religions, it just won't divide them anymore. If people wonder how this could happen, just look at all the Western countries where this has long been the case.

How can we build such a thing? The same way we sustain or influence anything else- by doing our part, however small. We just have to make sure to align ourselves with those who truly care about the future and about precious human rights. To do this we need very clear thinking people, who actually have the courage to care. Then, ultimately we will find that it isn't the violent people who make history. It's the people who know how to wield a pen.