Monday, October 26, 2009

How To Respond To Israel-Ignorance

The internet is big, huge, I mean you simply cannot imagine how large this internet thing is. But despite the size, the sheer amount of information, it is important to recognize that misinformation doesn't just get lost in the cold depths of cyberspace. That's why, when I came a across an op-ed that held poorly informed views on Israel, I had to respond.

Clearly you can't respond to every post out there, but after reading this I was stirred to respond:

Dear Garth,

I wanted to reach out to you about the many factual and logical errors in your piece, "The Path to Nuclear War".

You say that, "However, in the eyes of many, the reality is that Israel is arguably neither Jewish nor democratic."

This is a problematic statement because it conflates the subjective (in the eyes of many) with the objective (the reality is).

What I mean is that, many people feel disenfranchised in Israel, and don't believe their voice is heard within the political structure. That is subjective.

What is objective is that the country holds fair and free elections and has a representative body that is composed of 120 different members from many different political backgrounds.

Next you draw a straight line from the Holocaust to the creation of the state of Israel, which totally ignores the pre-state history of Jews in what was then the Palestinian Mandate. By ignoring previous efforts to create a Jewish state in that area, you remove the true historical context in which the modern state of Israel was created. I suggest you look up the Balfour Declaration for an example of this.

Next, you credit Israeli success in 1948 to the US, and specifically the 'Israel Lobby'. It should be worth noting that the US did not give financial or material support to Israel during the 1948 war, and actually had an embargo on selling it weapons until after 1967. Israel flew French Mirage jets until the 70's, but had no airforce in 1948.

The 'Israel Lobby' to which you refer is no different from any other lobby, like AFL-CIO, the NRA, or anything else. The fact is that most representatives see the value in having a stable democracy in the middle of one of the most unstable regions in the world.

Now here is my opinion - many people argue that if Israel just went away, we would have peace in the Middle East. This ignores history and is at best naive, at worst anti-semitic (a feeling I am not accusing you of).

Israel is a lightening rod for extremists, jihadists, and both far right and far left rhetoric. It is under more scrutiny than Sudan and receives more attention than Darfur.

Now, for a comparison, you said, "Israel consistently claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East , but her actions are anything but democratic. She kills, imprisons and tortures many thousands - even up to today, without trial and without any semblance of justice."

Now, I would hold the US as the model of democracy, but the US kills and imprisons many more people than Israel does, even on a per capita basis. If you can get your hands on the number of civilian casualties in WW2 Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, you will see that the ratio of civilian to militant casualties is often 2:1 or higher. Now compare this to verified numbers from Israeli campaigns and you will find that Israel has the lowest ratio of civilian to combatants killed.

In terms of your claim of 'without any semblance of justice,' Palestinians who are jailed for plotting attacks on Israeli civilians are given more rights than those held at Guantanamo.

Finally, in regards to your statement that, "that the state of Israel is carried on the back of the American tax-payer is common knowledge but it is open to debate whether that small country is entirely Jewish or democratic," is misleading. It assumes that people agree that Israel is carried on the back of the American tax payer. The aid that Israel gets from the US is in the form of military loan guarantees, not cash, not food.

Most Israelis would actually rather that the US stop giving Israel so much because it makes Israel beholden to the United States. Israel is more influenced by the US than is true in reverse.

While I, as a Jewish Democrat, disagree with a great deal that the Israeli government does and says, I cannot agree with your viewpoint, either.

I would be happy to begin a conversation around any of these ideas or issues.

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