The best part of politics: because they're all screwing us anyway.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Serious, off-topic post of the week

Because sometimes I do think about things other than giant penises and Rick Santorum's man-on-dog fixation.

Last night, while taking a walk, I came across a vigil for Cindy Sheehan . The protesters, amid candles and flag-draped coffins, were standing in solidarity with her for 24 hours. I was glad to see this display of support and went over to talk to the protesters, one of whom was surprised that I knew who Cindy Sheehan was.

I hadn't been following the Sheehan story all that closely, but I was starting to feel a great admiration and sympathy for this woman who had been personally affected by the war in the deepest way, who was doing everything in her power to end it. (Whether or not I think pulling out immediately is a good idea is another story, but in any case I think Bush fucked up this war mightily, so even if I have a few differences in opinion with others who oppose it, we have the same basic goal.) I had been reading various links to right-wing bloggers and pundits denouncing Sheehan with growing indignation--how dare Michelle Malkin say Casey Sheehan wouldn't have wanted his mom to do this?--and starting to see her as something of a hero, a lone voice in the Texas wilderness crying out for humanity.

Then, today I found this little rant from a letter Sheehan had written to Nightline:

Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel.

It's the same dilemma all over again, ever since the days when I couldn't bring myself to join the first anti-war protesters in part because so many of them were also anti-Israel. Just when I was starting to feel an inspiring sense of solidarity with my fellow lefties, I got a glimpse of the ugly anti-Israel bias that is too common on the left.

And this was the last place I wanted to find it.

I didn't want the pure mission of a grieving mother trying to prevent other parents from suffering her loss to be marred by the chilling ignorance of those who blame Israel for America's problems. I wanted to be able to get wholeheartedly behind this woman who had the guts to challenge the chickenhawk who sent her son to die. I didn't want to think there could be anything to criticize about this brave woman who had borne an unbearable loss and was working tirelessly to prevent others.

But now, I just feel disillusioned and alienated again from my own side--the people who claim they want peace yet attack Israel for defending itself against a culture of violence that ultimately wants its destruction. I hate Bush and his pet war as much as the next person, but I have no doubt that if anti-war protesters with the mindset of Cindy Sheehan ruled the world, Israel would be thrown to the wolves of Palestinian terrorism in an instant. And innocent people would continue to die because of the hypocrisy of liberals who confuse neoconservatism with Zionism.

There has to be another way. I know various fellow liberals--both online and in the real world--who don't buy into the anti-Israel lies, and fortunately the great majority of elected Democrats continue to support Israel, but there's a sickening amount of anti-Israel sentiment among the grassroots left, much of it far worse than Cindy Sheehan's brief reference. I'm sure it had something to do with the increased percentage of Jews who voted for Bush in 2004. I don't want it to pervade U.S. policy along with the ideals that I do share with such liberals--a woman's right to choose, equal rights for gays and lesbians, progressive healthcare and education policies, respect for science, protections against corporate greed, an end to unecessary war. Nor do I want to be driven into the arms of the Republicans, who I hate with a passion for the havoc they are wreaking on our country and the world.

I want there to be another way, a movement of sane progressives who understand what Israel is up against--and what we are all up against, because no matter how fucked-up Bush's response to it, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism is very real--but I don't know if that will ever happen. Right now, I just feel torn.


  • At 11:48 AM, Blogger BadTux said…

    The fact of the matter, Boinkette, is that I damn well pay my taxes to the government of the UNITED STATES, not to the government of ISRAEL. I pay my taxes to the United States government to benefit me and mine, not to benefit Israelis. I have nothing against Israelis, it's just that, as with Ms. Sheehan, I believe if they wish to go to war to benefit themselves they need to put their *own* bodies on the line, not American bodies. Same deal with the whole notion we went to war to "liberate Iraq". I pay my taxes (at gunpoint, no less -- they are forcibly extracted from my pocketbook by IRS agents armed with guns, in the end) to benefit me and mine, not to benefit Iraqis. If the Iraqis want a different government, let do it themselves. The role of the government of the United States is to benefit the people of the UNITED STATES, not the people of ISRAEL or IRAQ.

    Frankly, I've gone through the list of possible reasons for the war (a new one of which the Busheviks come up with every week) with increasing outrage. I was okay with the "weapons of mass destruction" excuse for war, at least until it became clear that there were none and, furthermore, the Downing Street Memos made it clear that the Busheviks *KNEW* there were none. Don't put me into the "no war for oil" crowd... if this were about oil, I'd grimly note that we're running out of it and securing oil could be in the best interests of the United States, but as I noted when the U.S. Marines assaulted Fallujah, this can't be about oil. There is no oil in Fallujah. If this was about oil, we'd secure the southern oilfields and the northern oilfields and let the Iraqis do what they will inbetween. But then we get to "reasons" like "free the Iraqi people" and "establish democracy in the Middle East" that are basically forced charity at gunpoint, where we, the American people, are held up at gunpoint, told "Give us your taxes or go to jail", then the money isn't even spent benefiting AMERICANS. If these "reasons" are correct, it's being spent to benefit people overseas that the U.S. government wasn't even chartered to benefit. Charity is fine and dandy, but charity at gunpoint is just plain *THEFT*.

    And charity bought with the blood of Americans is just plain unacceptable.

    If Ms. Sheehan appears outraged that her son's blood was spilled to benefit people who aren't even American, she has a right to be outraged, in my opinion. Her son swore an oath to defend the United States of America. He did not swear an oath to defend Iraq, or Israel, or for that matter the Darfur (don't put me in the list of people who want to send troops there). Having his blood spilled for reasons that have nothing at all to do with defending America is not only a tragedy, it is an utter travesty of what he signed up to do, and Ms. Sheehan's outrage is shared, believe me.

    -- Badtux the Libertarian Penguin

  • At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Personally, I think the concept of 'PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel' expressed by Cindy Sheehan should be read with a grain of salt.

    I see it as referring to the policies America has had in the Middle East, which have never appeared interested in finding an equitable solution for the Palestinian problem, but rather in finding a solution which would please, first and before all, Israel and the "imperial" vision of PNAC.

    The problem of Palestinians has been an open wound in the whole Middle East for decades. The international community has never tackled it effectively, America has always supported Israel unconditionally, even despite dozens of UN resolutions condemning some of its acts.
    Interestingly, after 9/11, Powell came out with a statement which sounded more or less like: "now we should solve the problem in Palestine". These words went a bit unnoticed, but I think Powell intuitively perceived a link between American policies in the Middle East (epitomized by the Palestinian problem) and terrorism. As we know, the reactions after 9/11 were exclusively of war.

    When you have two groups of people fighting and you really want peace, there must be a third party which proposes fair solutions for both, not someone with a soft spot for one of the contenders.

    My idea is that when you have nations whose policies are expressed only in terms of power and geopolitical influence, and not justice and equitable solutions for everybody, this is bound to create dangerous tensions. This must be avoided.

    The only hope for the future is finding solutions that are globally fair and equitable, instead of treading old paths of war and the unfair visions of 'power' and supremacy embodied in the vision of PNAC.

    Joe London

  • At 1:58 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said…

    I see some agreeable positions in the comments left by badtux and anonymous but some to which I don't agree. For instance: PNAC has done nothing but benefit the GOP and harm the US. They have helped put in power the maniacs who had started this illegal and wholly unnecesary war in the first place. Criticizing PNAC is, far from being an "unfair vision", is one that hasn't been addressed enough in the MSM.

    Re: oil in Iraq, I'm surprised that an intelligent person such as badtux would even hint that securing the oil fields simply because oil is running low is a good reason for essentially annexing Iraq and looting their oil, getting our soldiers, marines and contractors killed is alone a good rationale for going to war with an essentially defenseless country that had never threatened us or ever had ties to terrorism. In fact, in the long list of lies drawn up to justify this invasion and occupation, oil somehow never made it on the administration's list. If Bush had and Congress had actually come up with a comprehensive energy policy that's devoted to more than just setting clean air standards back and shoveling money down the bottomless throats of oil, gas and coal companies through billions in tax breaks and subsidies and focused, instead, on actuallt exploring alternative energy sources, then we wouldn't need to pull a stupid white man and outright use Dick Cheney's company to steal Iraq's oil.

    Regarding Israel, boinkette, I have to strongly disagree with you and your pro-Israel bias. It's notable that when Bush was busy cobbling together his mighty "Coalition of the Willing", Israel had already begged off and said they didn't want to get involved with this, even though the tensions in the Middle East more quickly and directly affect them more than us. I am deeply critical of Israel for hemming and hawing, promising and reneging and dragging out their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Remembere all those suicide bombings that were taking place in Israel up until about a year ago? They've virtually stopped because we've become the new Israel. Israel's new quasi-isolationist policy has proved to be more injurious to their staunch allies the Americans than their previously hawkish stance on Arab nations ever was. We're now taking the hits that, until now, they were taking because we're the new swaggering big bad boys of the Middle East. Essentially, we're eliminating one Muslim nation and its supposed threat to Israel while the Knesset stands by and passively watches our kids getting killed. To me, since this is supposedly benefiting them, this is worse than reprehensible. Too little attention, in fact, has been paid to Israel's complete lack of participation in this so-called War on Terror.

    Likewise, too little attention had been paid to Israel's own atrocities against the Palestinians, such as bulldozing their homes without notice and killing Palestinian children with mortar fire just for throwing rocks at their tanks.

    So, if you're looking for a fan of Israel, you're not going to get it here. I don't hate the Jews but I am deeply angry and critical of the Israeli government and agree that Cindy Sheehan has a legitimate beef.

  • At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger BadTux said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You read far too much into what Cindy Sheehan said in that part of a very long letter that mostly had nothing to do with Israel.

    When she said her son was fighting to protect the U.S., not Israel, she was referring to the underlying reasons we invaded Iraq that were never publicly alluded to by this administration but were widely supported behind the scenes by the people who justified this idiot clusterfuck of a war. The Project For A New American Century documents, written back during the Clinton administration, specifically cite the benefits to Israel as a justification -- never mind that these benefits are as illusory as WMD.

    Ask yourself if Americans would have supported the invasion at the very beginning if it had been sold as a mission to protect Israel. If we were going to protect Israel, then we would have sent troops to occupy Palestine. And if Casey Sheehan was down with that, I have no doubt he would have served anyway.

    That lengthy letter makes no other reference to Israel, so it is mindreading at best to assert that Cindy Sheehan hates Israel.

  • At 2:31 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    I had a feeling this would be a controversial issue...I'll try to respond to everyone's comments soon.

  • At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 4:05 PM, Blogger BadTux said…

    Regarding war for oil, I didn't say that I'd be overjoyed if we went to war for oil. I mostly meant that it'd be a reason I could comprehend, and would have something to do with the security of the United States of America and thus a valid reason to use the military whether or not I was happy with it.

    Whereas this silliness about going to war to "make the Middle East safe for democracy" is as loony today as it was back when Woodrow Wilson declared a similar crusade back in 1917. Woodrow Wilson succeeded only in making the world safe for Stalin and Hitler, two monsters who between them managed to kill some 50,000,000 people. And that was for a war we *won*.

    Lunacy. Sheer lunacy.

  • At 4:40 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Badtux: I actually agree with you that oil was not the main reason Bush went to war. I've never been a "No War for Oil" type myself. I do think it was a contributing factor, but the main reason behind the war was, plain and simple, ideology. The neocon ideology took a good, even liberal idea--"hey, let's spread democracy around the world"--and twisted it so badly as to become unrecognizable.

    Yes, Bush should not have misled Americans about the threat of WMD for which there was no proof, and which obviously turned out to be wrong. It was a dishonest war from the start, and the ideology was clearly flawed.

    But the war was not propagated to benefit Israel, as you seem to be claiming. Yes, there were a few neocons who said "the road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad," but that was only a part of the greater ideology, which held that America had the duty to spread democracy through the world by force. Helping Israel may have been a side benefit for some of the neocons, but it wasn't the main reason they declared war on Iraq. Too many people on the left conflate support for Israel with neocon policies, which is just untrue.

    I agree with you that charity at gunpoint was a bad idea--not because I don't think America should help other countries in need, and not because I don't think spreading democracy is a laudable goal, but for the simple reason that charity at gunpoint doesn't work.

    We should be doing everything we can to combat terrorism--funding progressive education in the Middle East, freezing terrorist funds, carefully monitoring terrorist communications, securing ports and transportation systems in major cities, adequately funding police and firefighters, etc--but invading a country unrelated to any terrorist network, based on false pretenses and carried out poorly, obviously could only hurt us.

    So on that basic idea, I agree with you--I just don't see where Israel enters in. The neocons sent Cindy Sheehan's son to war to fight for a vague ideal of democratic reform, by means of forcing charity on the Iraqis as you describe. Israel was only a minor consideration, not a main motivation. It is wrong to insinuate that Israel was one of the main reasons for war, as many in the anti-war crowd do, and such unfair blame is reminiscent of traditional anti-Semitic canards about Jewish conspiracies ruling the world. Cindy Sheehan's letter only made a brief reference to such beliefs, but it is a symptom of a larger problem on the left that I am very uneasy about.

  • At 4:58 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Joe London: Again, as I said in my response to Badtux, Israel is not the issue here, and it's wrong to suggest that it is. Sheehan only mentioned Israel in passing while describing the larger neocon agenda--which I am just as disgusted with as the next person--but to suggest that soldiers were sent to Iraq merely to fight for Israel is blatantly wrong and biased.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has indeed been a problem for decades, but that is because the Palestinians have always wanted to destroy Israel, not because of anything Israel has done. Israel offered 99% of the disputed territories to the Palestinians at Camp David, but Arafat walked out and started an intifada. That just goes to show how unwilling the Palestinians are to work towards peace. Things may be changing somewhat now, now that Arafat is dead and has a less extremist sucessor, but the Palestinians could have had a state long ago if only they had stopped their violence. In fact, when Israel was founded, the UN offered the Arabs (there was no "Palestinian" nationality then) their own state on half the land, but they refused and went to war with Israel. Israel happened to win territories in one of those wars, and although many people claim that Palestinian terrorism is based solely on Israel's control of those areas, it really has the ultimate goal of destroying Israel.

    That's why America supports Israel--because it's a lone democracy in a sea of authoritarian and theocratic states, a tiny country that has been constantly under attack since its founding. The vast majority of Israelis want peace--their military just has to use force in self-defense merely to keep the country in existence.

    If being "even-handed" means treating a democratic nation and a group of people who have consistently resorted to violence against civilians equally, then that's not the right way to handle the conflict. I believe that supporting Israel, far from being unfair, is the fair thing to do.

    I do agree that the United States should be more involved in trying to broker some sort of peace agreement between both sides, but we've tried so many times and every time the agreements are ruined by Palestinian violence. At least this time Sharon made the decision himself to with draw from Gaza, which I think is great. I truly hope it will work this time.

  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Anonymous (the real one, not the one who wrote left two spam comments that I deleted): I wasn't saying that Cindy Sheehan hates Israel--you're right that she made only a brief reference to it in a long letter, and it doesn't seem to be the main focus of her mission. But it was misleading of her to claim that the entire war was started merely to support Israel, which it wasn't. And it is an example of a troubling anti-Israel bias on the left, found in the likes of JurassicPork's comment, which I will get around to soon. A lot of liberals, to use a Bushism, misunderestimate Israel. It's sad to see that even someone like Cindy Sheehan, who I want to regard as a heroine, has fallen for the misconflation of neoconservatism with support for Israel.

  • At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Tio Loco said…

    Frankly, the comments of badtux, Jurassic Pork and "anonymous" display a cluelessness about the history of the Middle East and the Jewish people that angers me greatly. All of you are clearly displaying an anti-Israel bias that exemplifies the latent anti-Semitism of pro-Arab liberals, and it disgusts me. As Boinkette so well pointed out, Israel is the only democracy in the region. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that held a spontaneous vigil among its own people on September 12, 2001. The Israeli people understand 9/11 very well, because they live with 9/11's on a nearly daily basis. Would it surprise all you Arafat apologists to know that Iraq once had a thriving Jewish community in it for hundreds of years who preferred only to live at peace and be left alone, and they were totally driven out on pain of death in the early 20th Century? Oh, yeah. You also be surprised to know that Jews lived in Iran, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria from Biblical times until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. That is absolutely irrefuteable. The Jews never attempted to conquer any of those lands. Funny thing how the Arab nations insist on ethnically cleansing themselves of Jews, then threaten their only nation, not much larger than Manhattan island in New York City, with complete extinction, make bombs (the coward's way of fighting) and set them off in malls and at bus stops to do the maximum amount of damage to noncombatant children and families, and then systematically teach their own children hatred of an entire group of people and claim that if they blow themselves up and die infliction death on Jews, they are "heroes" and martyrs". And you idiot liberals take the side of such evil.

    Finally, Mr. "Libertarian", taxes go for everybody and everything. Get over yourself. You don't get a say in how my money is spent, and vice versa. Apparently, you'd have let Hitler take over Europe because it wasn't up to us to fight for France, England, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc.

  • At 6:45 PM, Blogger BadTux said…

    Mr. Muy Loco, in fact we did NOT go to war in Europe in 1941. We assisted England with money and guns, but we did not send soldiers. It was not until Hitler declared war on *US* that we sent soldiers. We did not enter WWII until we were attacked and had war declared upon us. We didn't just declare war on Hitler and send American boys into battle to die for the benefit of England.

    There is a difference between assisting legitimate democracies with guns and money, and sending your own boys and girls overseas to die on their behalf. If you can't tell that difference, well...

    I work with two Israelis. One came over here because he was tired of "that Likkud stuff", tired of seeing young Israeli boys drafted and sent into the Palestinian quarters to blow up houses and kill people. He recently became an American citizen. The other one believes that Palestinians aren't human, they're just cockroaches, vermin, who need to be exterminated, and he applauds "that Likkud stuff". The two don't talk to each other. Even amongst Israelis, the conduct of the current Israeli government in regard to the Palestinians is not without controversy. And frankly, from what I've seen up close and personal of the hard-core Likkudniks, they remind me an aweful lot of the hard-core KKK types that I grew up with in the Deep South, who insisted that black people weren't human and thus it was only right and proper that they should be enslaved and, if they objected, exterminated like vermin.

    Finally, the PNIC folks are not shy about saying, *IN WRITING*, that one beneficiary of invading Iraq would be Israel. This isn't me or some mysterious "anti-Israel cabal" making this up. This is Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and other prime movers in the Bush Administration saying this IN WRITING IN A DOCUMENT THEY SIGNED THEIR NAMES TO.

    And finally, regarding my taxes: I have no problem with the notion of a people getting together and taxing themselves to provide goods and services for themselves that the free market is not capable of providing. Libraries, fire, police, roads, national defense, health care, all these things have over time proven to be best handled via this mechanism, i.e., people getting together to tax themselves to provide that service. Once the area gets too large, we elect representatives rather than directly voting upon what services we want to provide ourselves. But the whole point of a government is that the people who benefit from the services provided by the government is supposed to be the same people who pay the taxes. I.e., Americans. When the world pays taxes to the U.S. government, it might be reasonably for the United States to be some sort of "world policeman". But the world doesn't.

    American support of England in the period 1939-1941 and of the Soviet Union after it was invaded in 1941 was predicated upon the notion that having Germany control all of Europe was not in the national interest of America. There was a valid national interest in preventing the conquest of the world by Hitler. But there was no national interest served in going into Iraq, as far as I can see. Vague notions of "making the middle east safe for democracy" didn't work in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson expressed that idea and instead only made the world safe for the monsters Hitler and Stalin, and there's no reason to believe that they will work any better today. America just plain doesn't have any staying power when it comes to doing things out of charity rather than out of national interest. Which, perhaps, is how it should be... charity is fine and dandy, but forced charity at gunpoint is just plain theft.

    - Badtux the Libertarian Penguin

  • At 9:50 PM, Blogger Michael J. West said…

    I'm having a hard time, even to the point of anguish, trying to figure out how to respond to this post. So many of these comments seem so reductive.

    It's true. Cindy Sheehan does indeed imply that the war was prosecuted for Israel's benefit and that is simply not true. It's prejudicial and ill-considered, and it's not doing much for Sheehan's cause.

    However, I don't entirely equate Judaism and other words, having problems with Israel is not the same thing as having problems with the Jewish faith or the Jewish people. So the charges of anti-semitism being leveled by some commenters are unfair, because they reduce it to that: criticism of Israel=anti-Semitism. For God's sake, I know Jewish people in the U.S. who feel that Israel has been unfair to Palestine.

    In America, we have a blind spot where Israel/Palestine is concerned the with-us-or-against-us Bush Doctrine is too black and white for our comfort, but the with-or-against-Israel thing is all too easy. Look, both sides have a point: Israel has the right to exist AND the Palestinians have a right to their own state. The issue is crowded by extremism and pig-headedness on BOTH sides.

    Palestine CANNOT exist at the expense of Israel, period. And admit it or not, powerful elements of the Palestinian Authority want Israel destroyed. I'm not entirely certain that Arafat wanted to permit Israel's existence; he waffled a Helluva lot on it. It's the reason that

    Likewise, Israel CANNOT exist at the expense of Palestine. The UN resolution that created the state of Israel specifically created BOTH Israel AND Palestine, and wars and political struggles changed that dynamic. Admit it or not, there are powerful elements of the Israeli regime that believe Palestine is dead and should stay dead. I'm not entirely certain that Netanyahu, for one, wanted to allow Palestine to exist. It's the reason that settlements continued to grow in the occupied territories even AFTER Oslo, and why Sharon faces so much opposition for wanting to remove those settlements.

    Does anyone remember when Gorbachev came to power, and there was a big to-do about the fact that he was the first Soviet premier born after the 1917 revolution? That was somewhat symbolic, but it had some practical significance: Gorbachev didn't remember the revolution, so he had nothing to lose by counteracting its reforms. I think the same is probably true in the Middle East: if anything is to be solved, it will have to be done by our generation. The one born after the 1967 conflicts, who have nothing to lose by undermining the changes that sprang from it.

    I know this is a long comment, but I was actually hurt by people on both sides. People, let's stop dividing Americans up into pro- and anti-Israel camps; the issue is not that simple, and anyone who is completely pro-Israel or completely pro-Palestine is not thinking the whole thing through (or is not being honest with themselves intellectually).

    Remember this: There are two groups of people who are FAR more sharply divided on this issue than Americans are. One is the Israelis, the other is the Palestinians. So if someone makes a statement that you believe has a pro-Israel bias, remember that there is a fairly large chunk of Palestinians who agree with that person. Conversely, if you are about to accuse someone of being ANTI-Israel, remember that they are voicing the opinions of about half of the Israeli people.

    Most of this doesn't apply to Boinkette (although dear, you do teeter dnagerously close to over-generalizing at times), but to the commenters who toss "pro" and "anti" epithets at each other here. Really. Saying that someone who disagrees with some of Israel's policies is "Anti-Israel" is NO MORE FAIR than saying that people who disagree with the Bush doctrine are "Anti-American."

    Many of you here ON BOTH SIDES who are accusing each other of bias have no idea how much like Sean Hannity and James Carville you sound. And neither of those comparisons are favorable, folks, take my word for it.

  • At 11:15 PM, Blogger Joe said…

    Reading the post (which was quite thought-provoking) and the dozen or so comments, I knew exactly what I was going to write until Mike wrote it for me in the previous comment. My feelings are pretty much the same as his.

    There are a couple of points I would like to add, though. Like Mike said, it's hard to know where to start with so many contentious things said, but as a Middle East Studies major I have to get my two cents in.

    1) I agree with you that Sheehan's comment was simply a bad idea, a stupid thing to say. I remember being at an anti-war in Boston Common last fall and seeing a bunch of anarchist weirdos with a large sign showing a star of David, an equals sign, and then a swastika. I remember Naomi, an Israeli girl from Brandeis I was with, was understandly offended and genuinely bothered by it. Add that to the dozens of people holding Palestinian flags, and we had one poorly-messaged protest. If Sheehan is really concerned about stopping the war, she needs to keep her message simple and be careful not to offend potential allies by overreaching. That's the number one rule of organizing, really.

    2) Opposing certain policies of the Israeli govt. should never be equated with anti-Semitism. There are so many Jews that oppose various Israeli policies toward the Palestinians (from all kinds of American Jews to many Israelis in the Labor Party and elsewhere) that this is a non-sensical idea. Whenever I hear strong Israeli supporters say that, I always think it's a cheap attack used to put people on the defensive and stave off any legitimate criticism.

    3) American liberals often sympathize with the Palestinians because of our affinity for the underdog. TV images showing Israelit tanks vs. Palestinian stones certainly feed this perception. Ame4rican liberals need to be tolerant and accepting of all viewpoints on this conflict, though. Making supporters of Israel feel they have to chose between their liberal politics and affinity for the Jewish state is not only politically stupid, it's wrong.

    In my opinion, how can anyone take sides in such a conflict, anyway? Why should Americans be pro or anti-Israeli? What's wrong with being pro-peace? I, for one, don't believe in strongly supporting either side so long as Israelis pursue settlements in the West Bank and Palestinians think blowing up a busload of children is acceptable.

    4) I disagree with you statement, Laura, that there was no Palestinian nationality before 1948. I think that's historically false. The Palestinains have a distinct culture, distinct Arabic colloquial, and a distinct ancestry from other Arabs. Furthermore, they trace their name back to the Biblical Philistines (the word "Palestinian" in Arabic is "Filisteenion"). Although this name was largely created by British colonialists, it reflects cultural and historical differences between them and other Arabs.

    Good post, Laura (or should I call you "Boinkette" in the context of the blog?). I think you did a great job generating a discussion that should definitely be had.

  • At 12:07 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said…

    What Mike said. I am very much able to separate the Zionism of Israel with people of the Jewish faith and it's ridiculous to assume that I have a problem with the Jews. Reductionism such as this is the reason why conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats can't see eye to eye when, really, we have so much in common.

    But my main beef with Israel is that, since we've been such staunch allies of theirs since their creation almost 60 years ago, they owe us something now in the way of support. One hand washes the other.

    Except when there's blood to wash off and the Israelis knew something that we the people didn't, like this war was based on a pack of lies and corporate greed. In that case, I wouldn't blame the Knesset for not buying into this deadly, massive-scale con.

    And I think it's absurd for you, Tio Loco, to say that we haven't a say as to how taxes are spent. Part of those taxes are extracted to pay the bloated salaries of elected officials whose job it is to apportion that money that best suits the wishes and concerns of their constituency.

    I do not like the fact that my tax dollars are being used to pay disproportionately large salaries to politicians who largely hold us in contempt and are interested only in giving gift-wrapped Xmas presents for corporations who put them in power with their enormous campaign contributions and give equally enomous multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to world-eaters like Halliburton and Bechtel when 40% of our people still don't have adequate health care. Since we're the ones who do most of the paying and suuffering and dying in this country, I think we certainly have a say as to how our tax dollars are spent. Under your ideals, we should just defenestrate congressional budgetary oversight.

  • At 1:17 AM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Thanks, Joe. I think you and Mike both have a pretty reasonable stance. It was definitely wrong of Sheehan to say what she did, and you're right that it will only lose her allies--she's just lost me. I still think her mission as a whole is good, and I'll be glad if it hurts Bush's image and helps turn public sentiment against the war, but I can't get enthusiastic about it anymore.

    I can relate to your friend Naomi's experience--there is some really awful stuff like that among the anti-war crowd and it alienates people like me and Naomi who would otherwise want to participate. I think Sheehan and other anti-war protesters would do well to keep the focus on this war and leave the Israeli-Palestinian conflict out of it.

    I agree completely with your point #2--I don't think that opposing particular Israeli policies is anti-Semitism, although people constantly accuse Israel supporters of saying that. There are some pro-Israel right-wingers who are like that (and unfortunately Republican Jewish assholes are a very vocal minority), but it's an overused accusation. Criticizing Israeli policy is legitimate, but hypocritically holding Israel to a higher standard than the rest of the world and blaming it for America's problems are not. There's a fine line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, and I can't say that I'm the arbiter of where exactly that line is, but I think it is crossed too often.

    I think you're right on #3 too--the media portrayal makes the Palestinians look like the underdog, even though Israel is not to blame for most of their problems. I definitely have some issues with the media portrayal of the conflict, but that would be another post...

    I consider myself both pro-peace and pro-Israel (in fact, I have a button with a picture of a dove that says "Pro-Israel, pro-peace"), and I don't think they are in any way mutually exclusive. After all, most Israelis want peace.

    Comparing Israeli settlements in the West Bank with Palestinian suicide bombings is just not a good comparison, and it goes to show the difference between the sides. I personally believe that a two-state solution in which Israel eventually gives up most of the territories to the Palestinians is ideal, but that doesn't make occupying land they won in a war in any way comparable to blowing up innocent civilians. They're totally different ballgames. The vast majority of Israelis want peace, and it's only a small fringe that participates in violent acts a la Baruch Goldstein. Although there are some Palestinians who want peace, the rest of them have not yet proven that they can stop teaching a culture of death and carrying out suicide bombings. I truly hope they can prove it in the future, but until they can, the two sides should not merit equal support from the United States.

    I'll defer to you on #4 for now, since you are the Middle Eastern Studies major here. From what I've read, most current Palestinians considered themselves Jordanians or other nationalities at the time Israel was founded, but I don't have any evidence on hand and I don't know a lot about that specific aspect.

    Yes, you can call me by my name if you want :-) I'm glad this post was able to start all the discussion it did.

  • At 2:31 AM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Jurassic Pork: How did you know that "defenestrate" is my absolute favorite word ever? (Yes, I am the only person who sits around giggling about the Defenestration of Prague--please don't make fun of me...)

    Other than that, dude, your ignorance is showing.

    It's notable that when Bush was busy cobbling together his mighty "Coalition of the Willing", Israel had already begged off and said they didn't want to get involved with this, even though the tensions in the Middle East more quickly and directly affect them more than us.

    What, now you're criticizing them for not getting involved in the war you oppose? Where's the logic in that?

    I am deeply critical of Israel for hemming and hawing, promising and reneging and dragging out their withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

    Perhaps you mean you're critical of Sharon, for whom the disengagement is a huge, brave step considering his entire past. I'm not a fan of Sharon in general--naturally, I can't be a fan of any rightwinger, whether American or Israeli--but it took a lot of guts for him to turn around like he did and do what he thought was best for his country. Don't forget that many Israelis have advocated disengagement for a long time, and they have the right to do so because Israel is a democracy.

    Remembere all those suicide bombings that were taking place in Israel up until about a year ago? They've virtually stopped because we've become the new Israel.

    Actually no, they virtually stopped because Israel put up a security fence. The war on Iraq didn't draw terrorists away from Israel, but rather created new ones. Terrorism is not a zero-sum game, contrary to the Republicans who would have us believe that fighting them in Iraq prevents them from attacking us here.

    Too little attention, in fact, has been paid to Israel's complete lack of participation in this so-called War on Terror.

    Israel is fighting a "war on terror" every single day. If you can accuse Israel of sitting around doing nothing, you have absolutely no idea how hard Israelis work to keep their society safe and free, and I don't even know where to start.

    Likewise, too little attention had been paid to Israel's own atrocities against the Palestinians, such as bulldozing their homes without notice and killing Palestinian children with mortar fire just for throwing rocks at their tanks.

    Atrocities my ass. That's just another example of the media bias that doesn't show the Israeli side of the story. The stories about killing children were inaccurate and have been debunked. Israel tries its hardest to fight the terrorism that is constantly trying to destroy it while preserving innocent lives, and gets smeared for every mistake or perception of a mistake, while numerous countries around the world--including, but not limited to, many Arab countries--get away with shocking human rights violations.

    I am very much able to separate the Zionism of Israel with people of the Jewish faith and it's ridiculous to assume that I have a problem with the Jews.

    Well, except that you don't seem to believe in the right of a Jewish state to defend itself. For the sake of civility, I'll refrain from telling you where to stick your anti-Israel bias, but let's just say your views are nowhere near Mike's, although you claim they are, and you should look a little harder behind the trendy pro-Palestinianism of the antiwar left.

  • At 3:06 AM, Blogger Joe said…

    Yes, I am the only person who sits around giggling about the Defenestration of Prague

    Would you believe I did a presentation on that in 10th grade and had many a giggle along the way?

  • At 3:11 AM, Blogger Joe said…

    As for the media, though, I think they do a pretty good job on the matter. I see a few things now and then that I think are overly sympathetic to Palestinians and a few that are overly sympathetic to the Israelis. It is worth noting, however, that polls shows more Americans are supportive of Israel than the Palestinians, and I think news coverage usually reflects the views of the audience.

    If you ever get around to talking/writing about examples of an epidemic of bias against Israel, I'd be interested to hear what you have to say.

  • At 1:29 PM, Anonymous tio loco said…

    Call me absurd about taxes if you want, but I actually agree with you people about confining them to basic human services and not using them for corporate welfare and lining the pockkets of greedy politicians. However, do you think that's ever going to change? Here we are, people who probably vote for many of the same candidates, who share common goals like peace, justice, dignity, economic fairness, personal freedom and reining in of excesses by big business, and because we endlessly snipe about crap like Sheehan and whether the Palestinian Arabs are the helpless victims and the Israeli government is the mean, evil oppressor, we are divided and conquered over and over again, election after election? You can bet that the Republicans and Conservatives are much more united.

    The libertarian penguin brings up a couple of good points about first, whether and when (if ever) American troops should be sent to fight and die for a foreign nation's interests. It has been done in Bosnia and Somalia, as well as Iraq. That's a whole debate in and of itself, as is point two: whether or not we should use tax money from America for foreign aid: either for humanitarian purposes, or for pragmatic economic stimulus in an effort to influence their governments to align themselves with US interests. That's a controversy I'm not about to take up now, because there are arguments to be made on both sides. My initial point was regarding the Left's criticism of Israeli policy as a constant drumbeat, regardless of whatever land concessions or overall steps toward peace they take. You all are correct (especially Joe and Boinkette) to say that Israeli society itself is divided and roiled over this. I am certain that there are courageous individual Palestinians who want a negotiated peaceful settlement with Israel and the two-state solution we Americans think is the only way to solve the issue, but they are drowned out by the Culture of Death. Can you not see that?

  • At 1:03 AM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Tio Loco: you're right on for the most part. However, I don't think Israel is a significant issue that divides liberals when it comes to voting: most elected Democrats support Israel, and most American Jews still vote Democratic. It isn't "endless sniping" to criticize anti-Semitism on the left--it's important. It's just unfortunate that it exists to begin with.

    Republicans aren't any more united than we are--they've got their share of isolationists like Pat Buchanan to counter the neocons. In fact, the Republicans are pretty divided recently, on all sorts of issues. When a party grows big enough to have total control of the goverment, it has to start splintering, and that process is already well underway.

    Joe: I don't think there's an epidemic of bias against Israel, but there is some. I haven't been following it that closely lately, but maybe I will get around to writing something at some point.


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