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Gaza Agonistes > Letters

Web Letter

I suppose I'm swimming in unwelcoming waters here. But I ask everyone to lend me his ear, if only for a few paragraphs.

I am not a Jew and I am an anti-Zionist. Let me try to guess your reaction:"Why ? Zionists are defending Jews against daily threats from Arabs in Palestine. Why would you want Zionists to leave Israelis alone with mortal threats?"

I agree that Israelis are in danger. But let us put things back in perspective for a very little while.

Zionists didn't spring up from nowhere yesterday. They have been in power for sixty years; they have tried to create this state for more than a hundred years.

Again, I'm guessing some will say: so what ?

So, considering that Zionists have had power for sixty years, and anti-Semitism has risen in Palestine, this raises the following, difficult question: is it not possible that Zionism, instead of drawing Palestinians to its cause, antagonized them all these years? Zionism is, after all, a nationalism.

And we have certainly seen other similar cases of hatred induced by other nationalisms. For instance, the National Front in France has created many problems for whites who incidentally did not necessarily approve of its positions on immigration. The Germans are constantly reviled in American circles, because of what the National Socialists did in their names. During a trip to Italy, a kid said he was sorry, and that he did not speak Fascist. Again, we see how nationalism hurts an entire people, and turns the rest of the world against it.

It is my view, therefore, that Zionism breeds anti-Semitism. For that reason, I oppose the Zionist State. I do not call it Israel, for that is a religious name that belongs to all Jews, and not just to those agreeing to Zionism. I also do not call the Zionist State the Hebrew State, or the Jewish State, for the same reason: not all Jews approve of the Zionist State.

I want Zionism to return to its original marginal status; I want Arabs and Jews to have equal rights in a single country. I want peace and democracy, freedom and equality. One of the American founding fathers said: commerce and friendship with all nations. It is time to put that to practice, once again.

Matthieu Gues

Calais, France

Jan 19 2009 - 1:21pm

Web Letter

Alterman is nothing if not an adroit self-positioner: on Alterman's flank, we find "the nonliberal left-including, alas, most of what has been published on this magazine's website-[where] Israel is not merely guilty of a foolish misadventure but is sufficiently evil to have earned itself a South Africa-style boycott." Such a position is too stupid, by definition, to merit counterargument. Meanwhile, on Alterman's right, "Within the mainstream media punditocracy, discussion of the Israeli invasion of Gaza is not only one-sided in Israel's favor but also deeply contemptuous of anyone who deviates from that side."

Alterman's position is, then, a difficult one: "The middle, meanwhile, is a muddle because it's not so easy to figure out how a small, powerful but beleaguered nation ought to address a threat from an implacable ideological foe who lives on your doorstep." Picture Eric twiddling and twaddling his thumbs, trying to escape from this cul-de-sac of his own creation.

I have a suggestion or two. One, tell the truth. Israel is not merely engaged in "foolish misadventure." It has bombed cemeteries, laid siege to the al-Quds hospital, attacked a United Nations headquarters full of food and fuel for a "beleaguered" people. So Israel has said "screw you" to dying people, dead people and starving people, and Professor Alterman characterized its actions as so much misadventure, like a kid wandering off the path in the forest, earnestly searching for a way back to the main path. Nuh-uh, Eric. Israel's conduct is an obscenity.

Two, tell the truth! Hamas has called for a two-state settlement repeatedly, as well as a long-term truce. (To be sure, Alterman does obliquely--one suspects accidentally--get to the truth, in suggesting that Hamas is an "implacable ideological foe." Since Israel is committed to destroying the Palestinian nation, and Hamas isn't, they are foes. The niggling problem is that Israel's position is intolerable.)

Three, tell the truth. Alterman writes of how "if I lived in Europe--to say nothing of an Arab or Islamic nation--where the Palestinians are held to be innocent victims of Israeli aggression, my strong personal identification with, and intellectual belief in, the historic Zionist project would no doubt lead me to spend most of my time defending Israel's legitimacy, if not its every action." Let's parse, piece by patiently constructed, patently mendacious, piece.

A) The little rhetorical hand-flick wherein Palestinians are not "innocent victims of Israeli agression" is unacceptable. To borrow the stark and perfect phrasing of someone who should know, "What crime did the Palestinians commit except to be born in Palestine?" (Alterman should recall what happened in World War II to a people whose only crime was being born a certain way). I also refer Dr. Alterman to, oh, I don't know, every piece of serious scholarship on the conflict--Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein, et al., which finds Zionism a brutal, expansionist, settler-colonialist ideology coming into direct, frontal contact with people already living in a geographically bounded territory.

B) The "historic Zionist project," defended with Alterman's pious Bar Mitzah speech, is, well, see above. Mainstream Labor Zionism included, the national rights of a European people were said to supersede the national rights of a native ethnic group. (I'm talking about Israel, not the genocide of the American Indians, although presumably Alterman thinks similarly of the "historic American project.") Why Alterman thinks this project "legitimate" is way beyond me--which is not so say that it would be in any way right for Israel to be subject to attack or removal.

Max Ajl

http://maxajl.com<br />Brooklyn, NY

Jan 18 2009 - 4:12pm

Web Letter

I'm no huge fan of J Street, or AIPAC though I'm much closer to the former than the latter. But this Jew on Jew stuff has got to stop.Writes Like She Talks (http://writeslikeshetalks.com)I suppose I should be happy that the, ahem, exclusivity (read: minuscule) of my blog's readership--although I've been published on Newsweek's The Ruckus, co-blog at The Moderate Voice, am a guest contributing editor at BlogHer, and have appeared on CNN (where I actually faced off against Michael Goldfarb, whom you mention in this column), BBC and other news outlets--has kept me insulated from the nasty nasties. I've yet to be dinged in the way that what you call the Juicebox Mafia has been.

Perhaps what's most remarkable about this dinging (and it has been suggested to me, by local Jewish compatriots that I am as good--or as bad--as an anti-Semite because of openness and willingness to see both sides) is how much it parallels the hypocrisy of both Hamas and Israel--Hamas being a power that encourages resistance against what it sees as sixty years of occupation yet goes to extreme lengths to deny rights to Palestinians under their rule; and Israel being a Jewish state and therefore, for many of us --even those of us who love our Jewish religion as well as the state of Israel--something less than a real democracy, since it outright refuses to give Israeli Arabs full rights (the banishment of the Arab parties from the Knesset last week amplifies this eye-roll-inducing inconsistency).

And yet, I would never deny Palestinians their love for their people or their parties--I may not understand it or agree with it, I may hate it and think it the root of all the destruction, but they should be able to express it.

Just as I should be able to express my disagreements with the Bush administration or American policy on the Middle East.

And the Israeli government.

Most poignantly for us in the USA, as Barack Obama's inauguration takes place, just as I should be able to be a proud Democrat who is most definitely not going to be supporting Barack Obama every step of the way (I withstood enormous pressure from fellow Ohio Democrats and progressive bloggers first, for voting for Hillary Clinton--who was my next-to-last choice, Obama being my last--and then for not "Joining the O train."

As Steve Martin would say, Well, excuuuuuuse me!

But clamping down on and mocking those of us who live out our cognitive dissonance about the fallibility of the leadership in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and the USA is the last tactic that's going to result in a resolution. At least, it sure hasn't done a thing to promote one lately now, has it?

Jill Miller Zimon

Pepper Pike, OH

Jan 17 2009 - 12:07am

Web Letter

I can, to some extent, relate to your plight. As a Southerner, I had to reconcile myself to the fact that some of my ancestors and relatives were not perfect. But you are obviously concerned about the moral aspects of your religion, which is the most positive social aspect of any faith. Let your faith and good judgment be your guide. You are dealing with fanatics, who cannot listen to faith or reason. Their opinions are worthless. Stick to the facts, keep your powder dry, and give them both barrels! They only respect the use of force, even if it is only verbal.

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Jan 16 2009 - 3:16pm

Web Letter

I need to start by saying this, its ridiculous. If the Jews and the Palestinian people would stop and think for a minute, they would realize how close of a people they actually are. Race-wise and all that other good stuff. They breathe in the same air over there, I mean they are practically cousins. But Israel wants to be a super power so bad, they have their heads so far up the America arse, and vice versa, our American government kisses Israel's ass so much it makes me want to puke. The fact that Israel cannot be content with what they are, a small little nation of people, sharing the land of the Palestinians, while hating on all the Arabs and Muslims in the region is quite bewildering to me. And just let me clarify here, I am not talking about the Jewish individuals, but the Zionist government of Israel. The fact that they want to attack Iran for trying to have nuclear power while Israel has 400 of their own nukes, well, that's another head-scratcher to me. I mean I feel the same way about the US, we have 10,000 nuclear weapons and yet we turn around and call Iran a group of terrorist thugs for wanting to play the same game we are kings of. Why is it that we defend the right of Israel to want to protect themselves from the tiny little forces of Hamas, but then we demonize any of our so called "enemies" when all they want to do is protect themselves too"? Do you really think Saddam Hussein would have ever attacked the US? Never! That would be suicide. Same goes for Iran. Yet, we Americans are all over the world pointing our weapons at people, telling them what they can and cannot do, saying you better listen to us, or else! Something is wrong about all of this. I just hope enough people decide to realize and do something about that. I say no more Supporting of the Israeli government with American dollars. I say no more supplying of American military equipment to Israel. And If Israel wants to start a war in the Middle East, by attacking Iran and or continuing these crimes of war against Gaza, if they inflame the rest of the Muslim world into a state of defense and attack Israel, well then I say it is Israels problem, not Americas! We don't Need any more wars! We can't Afford Any More Wars! It is time to lay to rest the mentality of war! Peace in the Middle East. Peace in the world.

kristofeR PASSAGGIO

http://enemyartistkristofer.blogspot.com<br />North Hollywood, CA

Jan 16 2009 - 2:49pm

Web Letter

I always find Mr. Alterman's articles about Israel to be reassuring. I consider myself pro-Israel, and believe that the uncritical support of even the most disastrous of Israel's policies is against Israel's best interests. I have a hard time explaining this to others, and find myself on such sites as Daily Kos reacting to both the venomous anti-Israel and Israel-must-defend-itself-no-matter-what posts with equal dismay. Somewhere there is sanity in all this, and I can depend on Mr. Alterman to give it voice, in all its ambivalence.

Rachel Port

Tucson, AZ

Jan 16 2009 - 10:47am

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