Israelis need to change their attitude

Nothing changes if nothing changes. So goes an old adage of particular prevalence in the world of 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous. The point is that a degenerative – and oftentimes self-destructive – dynamic will continue inexorably as long as the underlying conditions that have caused it, and continue to perpetuate it, are not addressed. Sounds simple enough, but oh how difficult for such a logical approach to be implemented when one is blinded by a debilitating sense of denial and obstinacy. And, as in Israel’s case, when its people are intoxicated by an extremist brand of religious nationalism and a warped sense of victims’ privilege.

Much has been speculated about the possible success of President Bush’s so-called road map to peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, pundits and politicians alike have too often focused on staged media events, like Israel dismantling an empty settler trailer or two, or releasing prisoners who were never charged with anything in the first place, to measure progress. Overlooked and under analyzed are those damning little details, like, say, the huge swaths of Arab farmland Israel is confiscating with its "security" (wink, wink) wall, or the fact that settlement activity and land confiscations have continued unabated and undeterred by US complaints.

Mr. Bush’s toothless efforts will fail miserably, as all others have, unless he can use American leverage to induce a change of attitude in Israel toward the humane: a genuine recognition of Arab humanity and of the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity on the land of their ancestors. Israelis need to confront the massive injustices they have meted out to the Palestinians with impunity for more than 5 decades – their dispossession, expulsion, the destruction of their society, and continued oppression under a horrendous military occupation, all of it meticulously documented by the United Nations and human rights organizations. Lip service is worthless. A truth and reconciliation commission, along the lines of post-Apartheid South Africa, would do wonders toward fostering peaceful coexistence.

Meanwhile, Palestinian good will has been met with a calculated and bloody escalation in Israeli violence and provocation, prompting the kind of ugly response we saw in West Jerusalem. The Israelis openly scorned the road map’s call for "an immediate end to violence against Palestinians everywhere" and the unilateral Palestinian cease-fire of June 29. During the cease-fire and up until August 18, a day before the Jerusalem bus-bombing, Israeli soldiers and settlers killed 17 people (including 7 children), wounded 437, arrested 593, confiscated 4,457 acres of land for Jewish settlements, bulldozed 987 acres of farmland, destroyed 12,462 trees and destroyed or damaged 253 houses, according to the International Solidarity Movement and official Palestinian sources.

Positive change is also needed on the part of American Jewish organizations. The ADL (Anti-Defamation League), whose historic purpose was ironically to ensure fair housing policies for Jews, must immediately stop its hypocritical support for Israel’s overtly racist Jews-only settlements. The phenomenal power of intimidation it wields should be used toward egalitarian ends, like ensuring equality between Arabs and Jews, not toward promoting anti-Arab bigotry and silencing Israel’s critics with the morally repugnant tactic of labeling them "anti-Semites" because they dare to speak out.

AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which wields a veritable veto over American Middle East policy, should stop using its congressional buying power to bully congressman into rubber-stamping Israel’s atrocious behavior. Instead of widely disseminating its notorious list of historically-challenged talking points all over college campuses, the American Jewish Committee should live up to its "American" moniker and help advance policies that work toward freedom from oppression for Palestinians, not vilify brutalized children who throw stones, and then pooh-pooh their cold-blooded killing by Israeli soldiers in tanks.

Unfortunately, all this is but a fantasy because Israel has no incentive to relent. President Bush is obviously too cowed by the ability to subvert his presidency wielded by the Zionist cabal that is running our foreign policy. Only weeks after congress approved a whopping $14 billion in "loan" guarantees to Israel, Ariel Sharon slapped Mr. Bush’s face by announcing the construction of 24 new illegal settlement units in occupied Gaza, also contrary to the road map. Unlike South Africa’s apartheid government that was sanctioned and isolated from the international community, our government continues to reward Israel’s apartheid with 5 billion of our tax dollars annually. Influential Christian Zionists and neo-conservatives in Bush’s own party are frantically trying to sabotage the road map by outrightly encouraging Israelis to ignore it.

So, how can we help Israelis get sober when we act as their enablers?