Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ethnic cleansing, Israel, and Arab states

A recent blog post of mine went a bit viral and I've been getting emails attacking me, which is what happens every time I write about Israel and Palestine. Those who support one side or the other only see that bipolarity and accuse me of clearly favoring one side and omitting information or lying. Sigh. This happens with protracted identity conflict when those of us who are outsiders stick our noses in. My point was, however, to get my fellow citizens to insist we pull our noses out.

I noted, for instance, that Israel was founded using ethnic cleansing, that is, driving Palestinians out. This is not a disputed historical fact, but it is a poorly understood concept by some. Indeed, I was lectured: "The Nazis were involved in ethnic cleansing. Rwanda faced ethnic cleansing. Israel is the only nation where Arabs are permitted to vote." Gosh, how many factual errors in this accusation?

First, Nazis did not bother with ethnic cleansing, that is, driving the Jews out. Nor did Rwandan Hutus fool around with ethnic cleansing, i.e., pushing Tutsis over the border into Congo or Burundi. In both those examples, they practiced gruesome genocide, that is, killing all of that identity group they could find. For the record, I disagree with those who claim that Israel practices genocide against Palestinians or Arabs. That is a gross exaggeration and misapplication of the word.

Palestinians or Arabs? Aren't they the same? Well, perhaps to my accuser, but, as most of the sentient world knows, there are Palestinians (including even in leadership in some cases) who are Jewish. There are the so-called Arab (Sephardic) Jews. And, obviously, Palestinians are a small (c. 11 million) percent of the Arab world (c. 300 million).

Finally, yes, Arab citizens of Israel (c. 20 percent) do have voting rights. I assume that is what my accuser meant when he mistakenly claimed that "Israel is the only nation where Arabs are permitted to vote," since Arabs vote across at least some of the Middle East and North Africa, though many of the MENA nations are indeed run by corrupt leaders. They certainly vote in the US, Canada, in the EU, South America (lots of them in Chile, for example), and elsewhere. Israel is hardly unique in allowing Arabs to vote--though Arab Israelis don't seem to get too far in that democracy, as a rule. They are a minority and democracy is run by the majority, although the truest democracy is more than two cats and a mouse deciding what's for lunch. Protecting the rights of the minorities is as sacred a duty as is honoring the wishes of the majority. If the latter violates the former, that is a corrupt democracy operating at a very low ethical level. We should know--our history of segregation, rounding up Japanese, stealing Native lands and profiling Hispanics is a set of case studies in low points in American tyranny of the majority. Do we expect better of Israel?

All I was really saying was, it's time to end all military aid to Israel (our biggest recipient every year), Pakistan, Egypt, Colombia and indeed everywhere. Violence is one way to achieve goals, but it is often the highest cost. In most cases, it's like the person who has to get his boots off in a hurry and he is holding a weapon. Shooting off the boot is faster, but taking a minute to set down the weapon and unlace the boots is radically lower cost. It is time to help the world by no longer giving them the weapons with which they are choosing to shoot off feet and instead hope they can relearn the old art of unlacing conflict carefully in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. The side benefit is that the $billions thus saved might go a long way toward fixing our own emergencies. Ask the citizens of Joplin, Missouri, if they think Pakistan should get $billions in weaponry or if those funds might be better spent creating rebuilding jobs right at home. Ask the victims of flooding and tornadoes from Mississippi to Minnesota if they think Israeli Defense Force should get more $billions or should those funds be used to help US families wiped out by uninsurable "acts of God" rebuild their homes, businesses and towns.

Time to stop sending military aid to everyone and focus on the families who need our help right here right now. We cannot afford both.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Tom for speaking the truth. I hope one day suspending aid to Israel will be achieved.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking the truth. I too hope one day, suspending aid to Israel will be achieved.