Wednesday, January 07, 2009

No More Aggression in My Name

I sometimes wonder what I would have done if I had been alive when the Atlantic slave trade was going on. Would I have been among the abolitionists? If I had been living in North America when the U.S. government was sending Cherokees on a death march to Oklahoma or massacring women and children at Wounded Knee -- would I have spoken up?

I wasn't alive then, but today I am an unwilling supporter of Israel's brutal attack on the people of Gaza, which my tax money, and my silence, helped make possible.

It is painful to write this. I am a descendant of Polish Jewish immigrants. I know how my ancestors were treated in the waves of pogroms and massacres, and what almost certainly happened to any who didn't make it out before the Holocaust. I grew up hearing the stories.

But that history does not justify what Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, calls a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law." As Falk makes clear, the story we're getting in the U.S. does not give a full picture of what's happening.

The situation in Gaza is "shocking," say representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Hundreds of civilians are dead, thousands are wounded, and thousands more are traumatized, trapped in a conflict beyond their control, unarmed and vulnerable. A ceasefire is desperately needed.

This attack is a tragic setback for prospects for peace in the region, and for Israel's future. Here's how Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery puts it:
"Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel."
We in the United States should not be supporting with our diplomatic shield, our tax money, and weapons this self-inflicted "crime against the State of Israel." Instead, we should use our role as the world's biggest financial, military, and political supporters of Israel to help stop this aggression.

It's time to insist on an immediate ceasefire--as the United Nations Security Council has done--and a long-term negotiated peace. We should halt our billions of dollars of annual support unless there is an end to the bloodshed and steps taken toward long-term peace.

Support for an immediate ceasefire does not indicate a lack of sympathy for the Jewish state. A new pro-Israel, pro-peace group, J Street, is calling for an immediate ceasefire. This group appears to be in a good position to counter the hawkish AIPAC lobby.

Americans for Peace Now, a U.S. affiliate of Israel's oldest peace group, is calling for a ceasefire "with teeth":
"This escalation risks playing into the hands of extremists, while increasing dangers to both soldiers and civilians -- Israeli and Palestinian," they say.
The Network of Spiritual Progressives, co-founded by Rabbi Michael Lerner, is raising funds to put an ad in The New York Times calling for lasting peace for the Middle East

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, is calling for a boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign like the one that helped bring down apartheid.

Just as many of us opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many Israelis oppose the assault on Gaza. The third peace rally in as many weeks took place in Tel Aviv on Saturday, according to an article by the Inter Press Service.

These are the forces Americans should be aiding; our active support of an immediate ceasefire and long-term peace may make all the difference at this difficult moment.

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