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Commentary Last Updated: Apr 19th, 2007 - 01:44:36

More and more Jews reject putting support for Israel over Palestinians� fundamental rights
By J.W.F.Small
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 18, 2007, 12:31

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�I do not encourage such phenomena . . . but I wonder if we can stop it from growing if the whole world is going to continue turning its back on the Palestinians.� --Kamal Nasser, April 1973, discussing the Munich Olympic massacre in the previous year.

In early February of this year, a group of British Jews, some quite Influential, penned an open letter to London�s Guardian newspaper. Entitled �A Time to Speak Out,� the authors made an official break with the country�s Jewish establishment arguing that it�s leadership, by putting support for Israel over the fundamental rights of the Palestinians, was no longer in a position to speak for a majority of British Jews.

Around the same time the three top British universities; Oxford, Cambridge and London were host to Israeli apartheid week. A series of workshops, panel discussions and seminars with academics, intellectuals and politicians from around the globe discussing Israel�s policies of ethnic inequality. These events were mirrored in several Canadian Universities; Concordia, York, Ottawa and McMaster.

The relation between Nasser�s comments and these more recent events could well be overlooked. Separated by over two decades, the connection might easily be lost in the tragic tedium of the unrelenting Palestinian saga. However, there is a unifying strand in these happenings which brings, perhaps, a vein of hope to the catalogue of woe which has come to characterize the recent history of the Palestinian Arabs. The link to which I am alluding is the fact that wherever people are, regardless of their ethnicity, despite the biases of their governments and the complicity of their media they are able to strip away the rhetoric and arrive at the truth behind the middle east conflict.

How could all this be taking so long? After all the fact is (and this has always been the case) that wherever the facts are made known, the feeling of indignation that accompanies the unveiling of as shameful a truth as Palestine is followed with the deepest and most steadfast feeling of solidarity. People able to repudiate these feelings seem to be the most irrational -- those who embrace the tyrannical, anti-humanist nonsense that various fundamentalisms, religious, racial or nationalist, tend to encourage.

It is the solidarity of which I speak that is now being unveiled in pockets across Britain, in universities, unions and most importantly in various Jewish associations. The significance of this reality cannot be over stated. As the status-quo trembles at the shattering of it�s tranquility by those it had claimed as its own even they are aware that any decisive change in Israeli policy will come from within Israel. This development though, has the effect of exfoliating the most powerful of the Israeli government�s protective veneers, the claim, having always given it an aura of moral invulnerability that they and their sponsors abroad speak for Jews everywhere. Such a mass of falsehood and arrogance has come to surround the state of Israel that even the most obvious truths, when they are stated, sound like the greatest of revelations. Here is one that should now be apparent; it is not the state of Israel that makes the Jews, but the Jews that make the state of Israel . . . though even that is but part of the story.

For the people of Palestine, the recognition of their humanity is long overdue. They were never, in spite of their dispossession, just parasites on the history of world and they knew that the vicious rule to which they were subject and the callous representation that had come to justify it were fallacy. Their eyes had always been wide open, because unlike the great men of Europe and of America and of Israel, they were neither blinded nor burdened by the cant inescapable hypocrisy that lingers when much of ones history reads as an anthology of domination over the other.

Throughout the life of the modern state of Israel, the penchant for discrediting the notion, undisputed elsewhere, that Israel was built upon the ruins of another nation of people has been a mantle of every sitting government. Whether by deportation, imprisonment or assassination the removal of anyone of serious social, political or intellectual consequence was carried out with ruthless efficiency. Kamal Nasser was a prime example of this. Naturally, Israel quaked at a living contest to her most fundamental myth, that she was conceived on a land devoid of people.

A journalist and poet by profession, Nasser was, at the time of his murder, the most eloquent spokesman for the Palestinian cause. The hit squad charged with his assassination, led by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, had come, allegedly, to settle the score of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered the year before at the Munich Olympics. Like many of the dozens of people killed on that night Nasser had nothing to do with the Munich massacre but has was killed just the same. Because of his eloquence as both an orator and a writer he was shot twice, once in the centre of his penning hand and then in his mouth.

In 1978, a few years after Nasser�s assassination, the Israelis introduced the village leagues program in a renewed attempt to stifle the Palestinian nation and stamp out the ground swell of support for nationalist movements such as Nasser�s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Hopeful that national fervour might be sedated by religious zeal, the Israeli government approved an application for license from a 42-year old quadriplegic Sheik in the Gaza Strip, Ahmad Yassin. It was thought that his organization, the Islamic Association and others like it would �counterbalance� the popularity of the PLO. The passage of the years and the metamorphosis of the Islamic association into HAMAS have revealed a lesson too often ignored by those occupying the seats of power; even at their most astute, bureaucrats, politicians and their parliaments are only narrators of the annals of resistance. Not its authors.

The discourse of denial in Israel and the character assassination of anyone that mustered the courage to speak out had been unable to stifle Israel�s Peace movement, which had always enjoyed varying degrees of popularity and success. In America, however, a majority of Jews seemed always to have assisted or at least been complicit in Israel�s rejectionism by refusing any discussion on the methods and practices of the state of Israel. American billionaire fancier George Soros alludes to this in his April 12 article in the New York Review of Books. Remarkable both for it�s candidness and insight, Soros�s denounces the lobby group AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) for suppressing criticism of Israel and argues that people in America, non-Jews and Jews alike fear publicly criticizing Israel because anybody who dares dissent from the AIPAC line may �be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification.�

The problem of peace

If it were just that the political reality of the Palestinian people were being ignored, side-stepped or denied by Israel and its representatives abroad that would be bad enough, but there is an even more widespread denial of the existence of other human beings in her midst. In Israel itself the refusal -- nothing short of visceral -- to allow even an iota of Arab Palestinian culture into the school curriculum highlights this denial. More surprisingly, though, is the fashion in which a majority of the worlds governments confidently support the bizarre, though now completely acceptable discourse of the �peace process.� A quagmire of prose, Kafkaesque in it�s concern for establishing if, when and how the Palestinian Arabs will be allowed to exist . . . as though pieces of paper and handshakes bear greatly on whether people exist.

While challenges by prominent Jews to the doctrine of Jewish supremacy in Palestine are nothing new*, by acknowledging the inseparability of the Palestinian tragedy from the founding of the state of Israel these challenges constitute an offer of peace. An offer which, if we bare in mind the fact that all previous agreements required varying degrees of Palestinian self-negation, we realize, contrary to the post-Oslo oratory, has never actually been made.

The powerful, lacking in both knowledge and interest of the people over whom they rule, reduce issues of peace to moral questions. For the powerful, peace, like destiny and freedom, are seen as either help or hindrance to their own hollow aspirations. A perilous equilibrium is reached; the weak, demanding justice but oblivious to the excruciating bravery it requires of the other, the strong stubbornly blind to the rewards that acting justly might bring. Unable to reconcile, ruler and ruled, strong and weak, occupier and occupied, find in the recesses of their passions a consummate homicidal violence which they visit and revisit, perpetually, one upon the other.

All the while there are the subjugated for whom the most cursed aspect of oppression, that which brings most anguish, is seeing the truth when others refuse to do so. They are under no illusions, �arrest� is kidnapping, �administrative detention� is hostage taking and �targeted assassination� is murder. They know they are not a nation of �terrorists� or �anti-Semites� and they cannot understand why they are the only ones for whom all this is so clear . . . the only ones who think that they do not deserve to be treated like this. It was Sartre who best articulated this incongruence between the myopia of the ruler and the panorama of the ruled when he commented of a different situation that in the midst of oppression one can find the truth standing naked but the oppressor prefers it with clothes on.

The solidarity of non-Israeli Jews with the Palestinians, while it will not bring an end to the immediate material damage that is wrought upon the daily lives of Palestinians, can help alleviate this particular facet of their suffering. But more generally it underscores the fact that the common adversary in the Middle East, the adversary of our common human values, is the unrelenting repression and the daily, wanton use of Israeli-American might against an indigenous people who have no means of defending themselves.

While there might be little hope of swaying those conservative communities who have allied themselves with the fanatics of America�s Christian right, it is the various Jewish communities, which have throughout America�s history represented some of her more progressive forces, that will take most interest in the display of nuanced opinion of the Jewish communities in Great Britain.

As people, Jew and non-Jew alike, find both the courage and common ground to speak with one voice on Palestine, it will become clear that, in the long term, Israel can be secured only by an open recognition that the country was built on the ravaged home and subsequent expulsion of another people and everything that follows that. That the dispossessed nation still exists and has infinitesimally more courage and consequence than its crude, vulgar portrayal as a few wretched dessert Bedouin allows for. That ultimately when this chapter, one of the indelible horrors of our age, comes to a close, they are due restitution for the decades of destruction, maiming and death imposed upon them.

*Albert Einstein among others was scathingly critical in his condemnation of Menachim Begin, arguing that the record and perspectives of both himself and his Herut party, the progenitors to Israel�s governing Likud, were closely akin to those of the Nazi and Fascist parties.

J.W.F Small is a British - West Indian writer. He resides in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Email him at

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