BY JEFF MACKLER
When 15 national leaders of U.S. Christian churches call on the U.S. Congress to reconsider giving aid to Israel because of human rights violations as well as the continued expansion of Israel settlements, including “claiming territory that under international law and U.S. policy should belong to a future Palestinian state,” and when this appeal is covered in The New York Times (Oct. 21, 2012), it’s clear that the credibility of the racist, Zionist colonial settler state of Israel is at an all time low—as is the myth of a beleaguered Israel threatened by “terrorist” Palestinians.
The statement’s signers included representatives of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, the, Orthodox Peace Fellowship, American Baptist Churches USA, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.
The letter called for Congressional investigation into Israel’s activities only, although it stated that both Israelis and Palestinians had “suffered.” Nevertheless, The Times article’s title, “Church Appeal on Israel Angers Jewish Groups,” missed the point altogether. It is not the “anger” of Jewish leaders that is relevant to the present discussion questioning the atrocities committed by the Zionist state, if not the legitimacy of the state itself, but the outrage of millions around the world concerning the ongoing dispossession, persecution, and starvation of the Palestinian masses, including the reduction of their historic homeland to some 17 percent of pre-partition 1947 Palestine.
Jewish leaders protesting the Christian leadership statement, including Rabbi Steven Wernick of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, responded, “When Israel is the only one called to account, that’s when it becomes problematic.” Wernick’s view that since both Israel and the Palestinian Authority receive U.S. aid, both should be investigated, is, in this writer’s view, the moral equivalent of demanding that World War II Jewish resistance to Nazi atrocities be placed on the same plane as the Holocaust, in which the Hitler regime murdered six million Jews across Europe.
Jewish leaders criticized the appeal by essentially mainline Christian churches, as “a momentous betrayal.” Announcing their intention to withdraw from a scheduled Oct. 22 meeting for a Jewish-Christian dialogue, they characterized the appeal as “a step too far” and an indication of “the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations.” Ethan Felson, vice president and general counsel of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, stated, according to The Times, “Something is deeply broken, badly broken. … We’re certainly not getting anywhere now.”
The choice of the term “anti-Zionism” above is noteworthy. The traditional response to criticisms of the Israeli apartheid state has been accusations of “anti-Semitism.” But putting that label on mainline Christian churches, several of which have adopted positions in favor of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel), is no longer tenable or sufficient to rebut charges that the whole world knows to be true.
The myth of a democratic, peace-loving Israel has increasingly been shattered by events past and present. In September 1982, for example, the Israeli-abetted massacre of some 800 helpless Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon was vigorously denied by Zionist state leaders. Today, evidence from Israeli archives has exposed yet another myth perpetrated by Israel with the aid of the U.S. corporate media. A September 2012 on-line New York Times article entitled, “A Preventable Massacre,” informs us that outright denial of reality is no longer viable when it undermines the capacity of the U.S. state power to maintain a semblance of credibility:
“On the night of Sept. 16, 1982” [during the period when Israel invaded Lebanon during a civil war], The Times reports, “the Israeli military allowed a right-wing Lebanese militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party [similar to the classical 1930s fascist parties of Italy and Spain], raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.” …
“The verbatim transcripts [from the Israeli State Archives] reveal that the Israelis misled American diplomats about events in Beirut and bullied them into accepting the spurious claim that thousands of ‘terrorists’ were in the camps. Most troubling, when the United States was in a position to exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel that could have ended the atrocities, it failed to do so. As a result, Phalange militiamen were able to murder Palestinian civilians, whom America had pledged to protect just weeks earlier.”
There have been several other recent incidents that point to Israeli’s isolation. For example, the University of Connecticut-based UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) center had scheduled an Oct. 23 forum in which family members and associates were to honor several key human rights activists. When four invited speakers learned that Israeli President Shimon Peres was among those to be honored, they cancelled. Peres’ son-in-law was the only speaker.
Two years ago, at the founding conference of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), attended by 800 activists from 25 states, a resolution demanding that the U.S. government “End All Aid To Israel: Military, Economic and Diplomatic,” was approved by a 90 percent margin. The UNAC conference was a first for the U.S. antiwar movement, a major departure from the view that criticism of Israel must be a “split issue.” Since then, UNAC’s influence has grown, with new supporters from a broad range of groups supporting Palestinian self-determination.
Israel, the world’s largest recipient of U.S. military aid, is increasingly seen by a wide spectrum of social and political activists as the major ally, if not instrument, of U.S. neo-colonial policy in the Middle East. Most recently, Israel’s repeated threats to bomb Iran’s nuclear research facilities, risking a wider war in the Middle East and beyond, as well as its repeated military moves to enforce its illegal blockade of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians of Gaza, has deepened its isolation and lent increasing credibility to the demand for a democratic and secular Palestine with the right of return to the forcibly exiled Palestinian millions.
For decades the so-called two-state solution, in which a new Palestinian state was to be created to replace the original Palestine, had a semblance of credibility, at least in the eyes of those who believed that the forcible and colonial expulsion of Palestinians from their historic homeland was legitimate. Today the “two state” solution is interpreted, at best, as essentially the forced imposition on the Palestinian people of an economically unviable series of disconnected apartheid-style “Bantustans,” bereft of even a semblance of nationhood and relegated to permanently dependent enclaves of demoralized and abandoned people. At worst, and more and more emerging as Israeli’s prime objective, is the scenario in which virtually all Palestinians are to be driven out of Gaza and the West Bank and dispersed forever—perhaps to poverty-stricken refugee camps across the region and beyond.
This “final Zionist solution” has long been recognized by the valiant Palestinian people, who can only be expected to resist with whatever means are available. Their development of a united leadership that aims at the creation of a democratic secular Palestine in the original pre-partition Palestine, where people of all nationalities and religions could live together in peace, is increasingly seen as the only viable alternative. This perspective was originally championed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1973, and included the right of return of the Palestinian diaspora.
Coupled with the mobilization of the Arab masses in the entire region for liberation from neo-colonial and capitalist oppression, the struggle for Palestinian liberation is inseparable from the emergence of a socialist federation of the Middle East. The upsurge that swept the region during the Arab Spring offered a glimpse of a brighter future for the long oppressed Arab masses. Achieving that “music of the future”—the potential for massive social change—is today on the agenda of all serious class-struggle fighters.
Photo: Tony Savino / Socialist Action