Sunday, August 24, 2008

The long silence: American Jews and the Palestinians:

By HOWARD LISNOFF | Counterpunch, August 24, 2008

For many years, now decades, I have been silent as a Jew about Israel’s relationship to, and treatment of, the Palestinian people and my place as an American Jew in that equation. Recently, I looked back at the Jews who I have known personally, as friends and acquaintances, and examined how their views about Palestinians and Israel have affected me and deepened my silence.

Following the lightning-fast victory of Israel over Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the resulting improvement in relations between Egypt and Israel after the Camp David Accords in 1978, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip appeared solidified. The seeming invincibility of Israel in both the 1967 and 1973 wars led, I believe, to a false perception of invincibility and self-righteousness among many Jews took hold. No longer would Jews be victims, as during the Holocaust, but they would meet any challenge and react with force whenever and wherever a threat appeared. It portrayed Jews as strong as reflected in Israel’s treatment of its neighboring states, and in particular in Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The government of Israel was showing the world how rapid and lethal a response could be to attacks, such as suicide bombings, against the people of Israel. Jews would never again be viewed as weak and subject to vicious mass attacks and attempted genocide as symbolized by the Holocaust. The stereotype of Jews as weak would be destroyed forever! The development of a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons is perhaps a reflection of the interplay between these historic and psychological factors. Who is more impervious to an outside threat than a state that possesses the ultimate power of weapons of mass destruction?

Jews in the U.S. were expected to accept their roles as supporters of whatever policy Israel adopted. Those Jews who wavered would be open to the most vicious attacks. Perhaps no one better typifies this phenomenon than Professor Norman G. Finkelstein, who lost his bid for tenure at DePaul University in May 2008, after a campaign of vicious attacks aimed at silencing his scholarly criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and the industry that had grown up, primarily in the U.S., to profit from the horror of the Holocaust. His books, among them The Holocaust Industry (2000) and Beyond Chutzpah (2005) have drawn stinging attacks. Among his most vehement detractors is Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard.

The power of the Jewish lobby in the U.S. is partially explained by studying the monetary might behind that influence. The most powerful of these organizations is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which in the 2004 alone had a $33 million budget with a staff of 140.

James David reports in his article “A Passionate Attachment to Israel,” that the Israel lobby had contributed $41 million to congressional and presidential candidates over the past 54 years (2002). University of San Francisco Professor Stephen Zunes states, in the article “The Strategic Functions of U.S. Aid to Israel,” that “more than $1.5 billion in private U.S. funds…go to Israel annually.”

Continued . . .

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