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The Paths To Middle East Peace Lie In America's Past

Message Curt Day
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Contrary to popular opinion, there will be peace in the Middle East; I guarantee it. I know there are those who say that the Jews and the Arabs have always been fighting, but that is irrelevant.We are talking about the future and, according to the past, we have seen this kind of conflict before and it ended peacefully. Thus, there is no reason why it could not end up the same way again.

See, once upon a time, there was a group of persecuted Europeans who fled to a whole new part of the world in order to find freedom and a homeland. A snag soon developed in their plans in that the new land they claimed for themselves already had occupants. These beleaguered Europeans had a choice. They could either treat the current occupants as equals or they could use violence to dominate. They chose door #2. Of course they felt that their aggression was justified because their group was more entitled to the land "occupied" by the indigenous population. The next sentence will tell us whether this story is about the America or Israel. In fact, one of the reasons why these Europeans turned colonists fought a war against the country of their origin was so they could choose door #2. See, the British had prohibited westward expansion past a certain point.

As it now stands, there is peace between America's indigenous people and its European, settlers. This peace took centuries to obtain and carried an extremely high price tag for the morally squeamish. This is because in order to choose door #2, these Europeans left themselves with a choice between military defeat and moral suicide. They avoided military defeat. All of this might help explain why they seem insensitive to the plight of those who suffer from Israel's current attempt at ethnic cleansing.

So Israel's story sounds very much like a golden oldie and the question becomes why has Israel chosen door #2 as its predecessor the U.S.,did? The answer is simple. Enough, though not all, of the European Jews who came to Palestine felt entitled. They felt entitled to a homeland where they could be safe because history taught them that safety was found only in self-reliance. And so far, there are no major major moral problems with this view.

But when Israel's only concern is its own safety so that it sees itself as having no responsibilities in how it treats others, then we have significant moral problems. The thinking that Israel, and its apologists, are employing here is that of reductionism. They make Israel's concern for self-survival their only concern. Thus, when Israel does anything questionable, it only needs to say that its existence is being threatened and the matter becomes closed. Note here, Israel's emphasis on self-defense eliminates the need to prove that they are being threatened or need force to answer the threat. To Israel and its apologists, Israel's word is proof. The implication here is that there is no standard to which Israel can be held accountable. Any attempt to hold Israel's actions to any standard violate Israel's right to self-defense.

The problem for all of us is what happens when Israel's enemies imitate its approach. That is, what happens when Palestinian Freedom Fighters' only concern is Palestinian self-defense? If self-defense can be used to justify every Israeli action and attack, it can be used to justify any Palestinian response. When combatants from all warring sides of a conflict use self-defense and security to justify all acts violence, innocent civilians pay the heaviest price while the practitioners of violence become more blind to the suffering they cause.

But there is another reason for which Israel and its apologists claim entitlement. This other reason is because they feel that they deserve the disputed land more than the Palestinians do. Reasons for this stem from the belief that the land is still promised to them in the OT to the belief that the Israeli-Jewish culture and society is superior to that of the Palestinians. In fact, more than a few years ago, I remember a popular conservative radio host explain why he didn't care about the plight of the Palestinians because they were not productive like the Israelis.

Regardless of the reason why some Jews believe this, what we are witnessing is another example of exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is when one group sees itself as being above other groups and thus they feel entitled to privileges and actions that are forbidden to others. Modern Day Zionism, Political Zionism to be more precise, somewhat parallels American Exceptionalism and its Manifest Destiny. But unfortunately, such exceptionalism carries an extremely high moral cost.

That high cost is because as some people become more deserving, it follows that others become less deserving. Thus, as Israel insists that they deserve "the land," Palestinians become "untermenschen" or subhumans. And when one looks at the level of violence Israel has consistently exercised against and the kinds of living conditions that it has forced on the Palestinians, it would be difficult to interpret the situation in any other way.

For Jews who understand history, to treat another group as "untermenschen" means that they have learned far more from the behavior of their oppressors than from the experience of being oppressed as, my close friend and fellow activist, Rita Corriel has written. [1] In other words, the nation of Israel is partially but significantly imitating the behavior of its harshest and most brutal oppressor; but we must quickly qualify that statement. Israel is not conducting a holocaust of its own against the Palestinians. Rather, it is replicating the Nazi program of the repatriotization of Poland where Poles were kicked out of their homes so that they could be given to ethnic Germans. The adoption of Nazi behavior and the regarding Palestinians as untermenschen are immoral practices.

Supporting exceptionalism leads conservative Christians to an additional moral dilemma. Since exceptionalism causes one to apply different moral standards to different groups, Christians who support American or Israeli exceptionalism find themselves practicing moral relativity. These Christians, not only allow, but sometimes enthusiastically support, acts of violence and terrorism if they are practiced by the "right" group. And they condemn America's and Israel's enemies as being immoral if they practice the same or equivalent violence. Not applying the same standards to all is an embracing of moral relativity and a rejection of absolute moral standards. What is ironic here (ironic being a synonym of hypocritical) is that these same conservative Christians denounce moral relativity when it is applied to sexual practices and relations. So what Christians allow for the exercise of violence it rejects for the enjoyment of sex. In addition, this support of violence depending on the source shows Christians to be clinging to a gang warfare mentality.

The problem for us when enough people accept Israeli exceptionalism is that we imply an approval of ethnic cleansing.The removal of Palestinians from either Gaza or the West Bank solely because of the ethnicity is ethnic cleansing whether it is done gradually or with a great flurry. This results in our being unable to credibly stand against ethnic cleansing elsewhere as well as we have helped provide ethnic cleansing as an example for others to follow. In addition, our calloused indifference to the plight of those who suffer much kills both those whom we neglect as well as our souls.

There is much more that can be said about the path that both Israel and America have chosen in how they dealt with their respective indigenous populations, but we should briefly examine the road not chosen. It is indicting that one of those who suggested this road was a nonChristian victim of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny. Chief Joseph, who led Indian resistance in what is now the northwest region of America said:

Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other then we shall have no more wars. We shall be all alike--brothers of one father and mother[2]

That is the road not taken and it was rejected by the superior Christian White America because felt that they were more entitled to the land than the indigenous population. Is it possible that if those Jews, who rightfully sought a homeland where they would be safe, had established their new home in ways that treated the Palestinians as equals, then there would little to no be fighting today. And, in fact, this option might still be open to the Israelis. That is, if they refrained from dominating the area and emphasized sharing, then, as Joseph suggested in his time, healing could replace fighting and there would be peace.

There is a problem with Joseph's recommendation, it does not serve the purposes of those seeking power and wealth. The seeking of power itself is an attempt to achieve dominance. Dominance and peace, like the poles of a magnet, repel each other.

So what can we do now? I gained a partial answer when joining a chapter of Jewish Voice For Peace as they recently protested the 2010 Christians United For Israel convention in Washington, D.C. The partial answer is that we have to talk to as many people, especially those who support Zionism, as we can. When talking, we do not need to given instant answers to all concerns and challenges and that is a good thing because there are none. Rather than trying to give compelling answers to those who are naturally resistant to what we have to say, we need to find the questions that will haunt Zionism's most staunch supporters. And we can only learn what these questions are by engaging Zionists in conversations and listening to them. Then, after reflecting on their statements, each of us can formulate and reformulate questions that will make Zionists think about much more than assertions that trigger defensiveness. The ability to ask the right questions comes from many times of such listening and reflecting.

Why should we take the effort and trouble to be involved? We only need to think if it would be worth our while to so speak out for the Jews in Nazi Germany. If it would be worth our while and if we believe in equality, then why would it not be worth it to listen and speak out for the Palestinians?

[2] click here

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Curt Day is a religious flaming fundamentalist and a political extreme moderate. Curt's blogs are at and
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