Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Personal Note

My writing is more critical of Israel and the United States than of Hizbullah, Hamas, other Palestinians, Arab states and Iran. This is because I best know and care most about Israel and the United States. Their politics and societies most directly affect me, despite globalization. Over the last forty years, I spent a lot of time in Israel and the United States working with others to change certain Israel policies and American support for them, because I believed they were unjust, needlessly cruel and not in Israel’s best interests. The policies included the colonization of the territories captured in the Six Day War, the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, collusion with the apartheid regime in South Africa, the brutal response to the first intifada, failures to enact a settlement freeze, building the security wall, assassinations and incursions into the morsels of Palestinian territory. I have also been critical of Palestinian and other Arab policies that have been cruel, stupid, corrupt and counterproductive, that have undermined trust in their own communities and betrayed peace groups in Israel and elsewhere.

I and kindred spirits are often accused of holding the US and/ or Israel to a higher moral standard. First, I believe the United States should be held to some moral standard shared by the international community and not just to its own convenient notion of morality. Second, as the world’s only superpower, a.k.a. global empire, the United States has a responsibility to join with other states in trying to create a more stable, peaceful milieu for the conduct of international relations. Too often it has acted unilaterally through policies of "regime change" to satisfy its interests, with the Bush administration’s behavior being the latest and most egregious case in a sorry history.

My reply with regard to Israel is more complex. First, I cannot accept the evasions by Israeli governments over the last forty years of resolutions for Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and through that with the Arab world. Their failures cannot be excused by Arab recalcitrance or the traumas of Jewish history. They are primarily due to many Israelis’ having fallen in love with the territories and their influence on fractious Israel governments. Second, what moral standards is a significant issue in Zionism, Israel’s founding ideology that still has some claims on its people and supporters. On one hand, Zionism wanted a state where Jews could live normal lives, make their own collective history and not be at the mercy of others. On the other hand, this state was to be exemplary, a “light unto the nations,” a redeemer of both land and people.

I do not believe Jews are or expect them to be ethical supermen. I do not believe they have special genes for fighting injustice or natural immunity to fascism. However, I think Jewish communities have a tremendous tradition of self-criticism that demands we do the right thing. That tradition, for me, is a source of courage and hope.

“Hope,” the poet Seamus Heaney recently said, “is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.”


Anonymous shlomo said...

It's about time the left starts using the phrase "moral standards."

11:47 AM  
Blogger Phill H-B said...

The problem with talking about 'moral standards' is that the term has been so hopelessly devalued by the pseudo-religious right.

Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed are both demonstrations of the fact that imoral and the corrupt often like to wear the mask of public piety.

6:32 AM  

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