Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are the Right and the Left Anti-Semitic?

9/11/2016—I pause before beginning to remember the men and women who lost their lives fifteen years ago in terrorist attacks. I remember thinking then that the attacks would not change that much. In a sense that was true. There had been terror attacks in the few years before 9/11—and federal criminal trials of terrorists as well. (As there should have been since).

But it was different. 9/11 militarized terrorism, which previously had been treated as another form of criminal activity. This led to dealing with terrorism through military interventions, which was a grave error. The first Iraq war had come as a response not to terror, but to invasion.

The world is now quite different than it might have been. And, as a young person I know said the other day, not many good things have happened in the US since 9/11.

One more thing that has changed is that the Israeli-Palestinian impasse now seems to have permanently been solved by Israel militarily. Ironically, Putin is the one putting pressure on Israel to make concessions and is scheduled to hold talks. But not much is going to come of this. There is a slow creep to occupy all of the West Bank. Partly it seems to be motivated by orthodox religion, but also by simple nationalism.

The motif that allows Israel to deflect criticism about this is anti-Semitism. This week’s Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh contains two stories about that subject—one about the alt-right and the other about the left.

Barry Shaw’s piece about the left is the most impassioned and determined. It notes that support for the Palestinian side is strong among those who, like the Black Lives Matter Movement, identify with exploited groups. His point is, along with Alan Dershowitz, that you don’t have to take a stand on Russia and Saudi Arabia to be in good standing on the left—but you do on Israeli policy.

I would call this silly if the subject were not so serious. I am sure the left is quite anti-Putin—although there is some anti-Ukrainian tropes among the left—and certainly anti-Saudi Arabia. But Israel has always touched America deeply—remember the wildly popular movie Exodus? Israel has always had a very close relationship with the US, including financially and militarily. So there is a sense in which the US is implicated in the treatment of Palestinians in a way we are not implicated in other injustices in the world. Plus, Israel is an outpost of the West in the midst of the Islamic world. Not exactly imposed by the West—Britain certainly did not support Israel’s creation consistently—but a part of the story of Western imperialism all the same—how else was Britain involved at all? If Muslims had been allowed to control the territory after WWI, there would never have been an Israel. So it is not crazy to see in this conflict responsibility by the West.

Anyway, those people so angry about the boycott movement should do more to promote peace. I don’t know whether this is possible. Where still after all these years is the Palestinian movement pushing for a realistic settlement? Israel is not going away and the right of return will not be granted.

The one thing that people opposed to Israeli annexation of the West Bank can do is to be very clear that Israel has no right to any of the West Bank. The settler movement has obviously won over Israeli public opinion, but that does not mean that the rest of the world has to accede. Yes, at this point, there are facts on the ground. But they are not justice. It is a little late in the history of religion for one religious group to claim that God gave it title to property.

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