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Time For The American Jewish Community to Reevaluate its Unquestioning Support for Israel

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Message Paul Hershfield

It's time for the American Jewish community to seriously reevaluate its unquestioning and unyielding support for Israel.

In order to justify Israel's actions, policies, and even its "right" to exist as a Jewish state, you can no longer fall back on the Nazi Holocaust, the lie that Palestinians left voluntarily in 1948 (regardless of which their right of return is still protected by international law) or that they weren't even there to begin with - suicide bombers, or the racists, claim that "they teach their children to hate." The myth that "Jews bought the land" has been long discredited by Israeli historians, and even by the Jewish National Fund itself.

-You can't lament the fate of Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured (civilians are also kidnapped) the day after Israel kidnapped two Palestinians, while over 10,000 Palestinians, many of them minors, languish in Israeli prisons, some with no charges against them.

-Kassam rockets that have, since their first use in 2001, taken the lives of 23 Israelis cannot be used as an excuse to attack a defenseless, starving population, imprisoned in the most densely populated place on the planet, killing over 1,400 people (one-third of them children), wounding 5,300 and leaving thousands homeless.-

-That same population cannot indefinitely be kept under siege, living on one meal a day, simply because Israel's government (and most of their supporters) don't approve of their democratically elected representatives.

-The veneer of "the only democracy in the middle east" is wearing thin under the weight of continued land and water theft, the construction of more "settlements" in the West Bank, and the expulsion of non-Jewish residents from East Jerusalem in order to "Judaize" a city illegally annexed by the state.

-It's worth noting that "Democracy" means more than just elections and majority rule; democracy requires a bill of rights to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. If majority rule were the only criterion, a lynch mob would be a democracy.- Israel has neither a constitution nor a bill of rights.-

-The IDF can't keep acting in a criminal manner, dropping white phosphorus and DIME weapons in crowded urban areas, targeting civilians, engaging in torture, arresting without charge, systematically demolishing houses, defecating in Palestinian homes, using human shields and shooting at ambulances and emergency medical personnel while continuing the charade of claiming to be "the most moral army in the world."

-The recent coming to power of extreme right-wing elements of Israeli society is not an aberration. Rather, it reveals the true nature and intent of Zionism. Loyalty oaths and criminalizing the questioning of Israel's right to exist as a "Jewish, Zionist and democratic state" are hardly benchmarks of democracy. Neither is throwing someone in prison for the simple act of commemorating the Nakba of 1948, an event which included the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of over 500 towns and villages.

-More than 20 Israeli state laws discriminate against non-Jews, restricting their rights to own property, hold citizenship, move freely, and participate in elections. Bishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as the Jewish South African Ronnie Kasrils, have all stated that Israeli law and oppression of the Palestinian people is comparable to the South African system of apartheid. Residents of the Misgav bloc of communities in the Galilee - this is in Israel mind you, not the West Bank - were "shocked" when proposals raised at local council meetings to accept only applicants who shared their Zionist principles drew negative headlines and criticism for alleged racism. What else would you call it?

-Israel has violated over 80 resolutions of the United Nations, more than any other country in the world, including Resolution 194, which affirms the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and Resolution 242, which called for an immediate end to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

-And now, simply mentioning the "two-state solution," which Israel has supposedly been willing to accept for many years, brings a storm of criticism. Witness responses to President Obama's tepid support for two states: "We are launching a campaign against Barack Hussein Obama. He is bad for the people of Israel and for the state of Israel and his policies could bring about disaster. We expect our prime minister to say 'no' to anyone who tries to harm us," right-wing activist Ben-Gvir stated. In Israel, Obama is being called a "Jew-hating anti-Semite."

-Which brings us, at last, to the ultimate weapon: accusing critics of anti-Semitism. However, we need to define "anti-Semitism" before tossing it about so freely.

-Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that it can be defined on the one hand as hatred of the Jewish "race," culture or religion (a definition I agree with), and on the other hand as criticism of Zionism or Israel (which I don't agree with). The problem is, inflating the meaning of anti-Semitism to include the latter lessens the ugliness of the former. You can try to control the definition, but you are no longer able to hide the facts of Israel's oppression and brutality from the world. No accusation of anti-Semitism is going to change the views of the large and growing Palestinian solidarity movement.

-So what? Suppose we accept the claim that opposing the settlements is anti-Semitic. We can't, however, deny the fact that the settlements, along with their Israeli-only roads, hundreds of checkpoints throughout the West Bank, and the "security barrier" that is taking more land from the supposed future Palestinian state, all serve to effectively strangle the Palestinian people, violate their human rights, and create an insurmountable obstacle to peace. Motivated by our desire for peace and justice we are morally obligated to oppose the settlements. Therefore, within the inflated definition, we are likewise morally obligated to be anti-Semites. Through the inflation and cheapening of its definition, some form of anti-Semitism becomes inevitable.

-What about anti-Zionism? Suppose we accept the idea, which I don't, that Zionism is the "legitimate national liberation movement of the Jewish people." There are many crimes that Zionism can be held accountable for; they have been well-documented by Israeli historians, based upon Israeli government and military files. Zionism is, at its core, a movement founded on creating an exclusivist, majority Jewish state on someone else's land, leading inevitably to apartheid. Anti-Zionism is therefore a moral obligation, and based on the inflated definition, anti-Semitic. So, anti-Semitism again becomes a moral obligation. Simply labeling any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic isn't working any longer.

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Cofounder and coordinating committee member of the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid-Southern California.
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