March 09, 2007

They would, wouldn’t they? Politicians could be counted on to give a tepid response to King Abdullah II of Jordan, when before a joint session of Congress this week he made an impassioned plea for the United States to lead in an active pursuit of an Israel-Palestinian peace.

Politicians, after all, know which side their bagel is buttered. It got quieter in the chamber when the King pleaded the Palestinian case: “Sixty years of Palestinian dispossession, 40 years under occupation, all this has left a bitter legacy of disappointment and despair on all sides.” The denial of justice and peace in Palestine is recognized the world over except, it seems, inside the Beltway, as well as in New York and Hollywood land.

As Scott McConnell wrote in the American Conservative, quoting Gen. Wesley Clark, “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided (about an attack on Iran) but there is so much pressure being channelled from New York money people to the office seekers.” In other words, no politician except for those wishing to retire immediately will risk the wrath of the Israel lobby. Applauding the King of Jordan’s plea could land one in the familiar crossfire of the anti-Semitic smear. If applause is dangerous, imagine criticizing the right-wing crazies of Likud.

And it gets worse. The American Jewish Committee last month published a document which accused prominent American Jews of anti-Semitism. As the American Conservative wrote, “Perhaps the AJC’s targets really weren’t only professor Tony Judt or playwright Tony Kushner, or even the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, the latter hardly a critic of Israel.” The idea basically was to scare the hell out of the goyim—if Jews are not safe from charges of anti-Semitism if they undertake any criticism of Israel, who the hell are we Christians to dare open our mouths?

And so it goes. Any argument which doesn’t please Abe Foxman or the crazed Alan Dershowitz results in the anti-Semitic smear. My suggestion is the following: What every decent person should do when discussing the horrors Israel has been perpetrating against the Palestinians these last sixty years is to quote from an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, the most prestigious paper in the country. Haaretz has time and again pointed out these horrors, but within Israel no one dares call its writers anti-Semites. Now if only we could get some of our politicians to quote from Haaretz it would be a step in the right direction. And we might even hear one hand clapping in Congress.


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