As Nonviolent Resistance
Memories as National Policy in the United States and Israel
By Daniel C. Maguire,
Marquette University (Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Prime Minister of
Israel Ariel Sharon, May 2003: "You cannot like the word,
but what is happening is an occupation-to hold 3.5 million Palestinians
under occupation. I believe that is a terrible thing for Israel
and for the Palestinians
It can't continue endlessly."
"He who controls the past, controls the future; and he who
controls the present, controls the past."
is designed to make lies sound truthful
and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity
to pure wind."
The military historian,
Sir B. H. Liddell Hart says: "In no field has the
pursuit of truth been more difficult than that of military history."
Heinrich Heine: "Whenever they burn books they will also,
in the end, burn human beings." (Suppressing memories is
like burning books. When you suppress memories, you end up burning
Professor of Jewish
Studies Marc Ellis: "History sneaks up on the powerful."
Robert MacAfee Brown:
"War is the coward's escape from the problems of peace."
My final Keynoter is
a ten year old Afghan boy, Mohammed Noor. At the beginning
of the American invasion of Afghanistan, this boy was having his
Sunday dinner when an American bomb hit his home. He lost both
eyes and both hands. Did President Obama forget about him when
he ordered tens of thousands more military killers into this boy's
In 1882, in a speech
at the Sorbonne, Ernest Renan observed that "forgetting"
is "a crucial factor in the creation of a nation." In
creating a national unifying narrative, certain difficult memories
of unseemly events have to be erased. As Renan said, this will
even include the wholesale slaughter of certain ethnic and religious
groups within the claimed national borders.
This violence must
be whitewashed off the screen of public consciousness. There are
many tricks on the way to planned oblivion. Nations specialize
in those tricks regarding state-sponsored violence, i.e. war,
with the inevitable mayhem that war entails. The ugliness of state-inflicted
slaughter does not fit comfortably into any national narrative
and so every nation spins its own self-serving Aeneid. Neither
the government nor the people can face with candor the horrors
wreaked by their wars. So we forget with a vengeance. And with
policy, a systematic, enforced effort to suppress the memory of
inconvenient past events or to spin them into mythic euphemisms.
All nations do this but here I am looking at two nations, the
United States and Israel, both of whom see themselves as distinguished
by a kind of moral exceptionalism and impunity.
have evil offspring. As true memory is erased, fictive memory
takes its place. When Americans forget the double genocide that
marked their birth as a nation the fictive memory of "self-made
men" takes its place. The Indian hunter and the slaver are
replaced by the fictional Horatio Alger, who made it on his own
with his wit and grit. Republican Senator Chauncey M. Depew, speaking
at Vanderbilt University shortly after the abolition of slavery,
put it this way: "We have become a nation of self-made men
same open avenues, the same opportunities which [Commodore Vanderbilt]
had before him are equally before every other man." Notice:
no classism, no racism, no sexism, no slavery, no genocide. All
of those supporting foundations of white American comfort-especially
white American male comfort-had become forbidden memories.
In a similar feat of
amnesia, modern Israel and many Jews worldwide forget that 700,000
Palestinians were driven from their homes to make room for Israel.
Myth has replaced fact. A fictive memory of "a people without
a land" coming to a "land without people" provided
the consoling mythology. As American Jewish scholar Marc Ellis
says, unlike that popular myth, "Israel did not have a virgin
Propaganda is a form
of manipulative fiction. It requires selective amnesia. Remembrance
is non-violent. And remembrance is the only way to fight the violence
of suppressed memories and self-serving myths. Inconvenient truths,
once remembered, have prophetic power but have to be shouted from
the rooftops to end the malignant silence.
Israel and the United
States: A Special Relationship
Israel and the United
States have a unique relationship, one so close that Israel has
been called the 51st state, a privileged state that pays no US
taxes and receives ten million dollars a day in aid. In a concrete
symbol of this unique relationship, the Holocaust Museum in Washington
DC is the only edifice on the Washington Mall not dedicated to
events and persons in American history. The prime alleged reason
for this intimate bonding is a shared commitment to democracy,
with Israel being, allegedly, a bastion of democracy in a hostile
Middle East. As ever in statecraft, the alleged is rarely the
real. Closer to reality would be the following seven unflattering,
generally unmentioned, but unmistakable similarities between Israel
and the US.
1) Both nations were
founded on ethnic cleansing, the Indians for the US, the Palestinians
for the Israelites. As an early American critic Sylvester Judd
put it in 1842: "The people of this country would not be
taxed without representation. They did not tax the Indians without
representation, but exterminated them and planted themselves in
their territories." In one example, to pay for the Revolutionary
War, early America expropriated 25,000,000 acres of Indian land
to be sold to Europeans and Americans to pay for the war. Like
Israel's "settlements," this was land forcibly stolen
from the indigenous peoples.
The foundations of
the United States, however, rest on a second genocide. Early American
economic success depended upon its African slave base and the
effective caste system that produced the American apartheid still
evident in the ghettoes and barrios of American cities.
In an ethnic cleansing
parallel to the American experience, in 1948, in what the Israelis
call the War of Independence, and what the Palestinians call Al
Nakba, "the Catastrophe," some 700,000 Palestinians
were driven from their homes. Al Nakba led to "the cleansing
(i.e. killing and expulsion) of at least 86% of the indigenous
Palestinian population that lived in the area that would become
Israel and the erasure of at least 531 of their villages and towns,
with the explicit goal of creating an exclusively Jewish state
in the same area." As with the Indians in America there was,
thus, a racist base for this cleansing.
2) Both Israel and
the United States claim religious warranty for their existence
and expansionism. Both imagine a God who was into real estate
distribution, a God who hands out parcels of land with a perpetual
deed. Israel is seen as "the promised land" chosen by
God for the Jewish nation. Early America saw itself as "the
new Zion," the new chosen people with a "manifest destiny"
to expand. Pity those who had lived on those lands for centuries.
Religiously enforced nationalism breeds fanatical claims and arrogance.
As the poet Alexander Pope put it: "the worst of madmen is
saint gone mad."
Not all Israeli Jews
are blinded by these myths of modern Israel's innocent birth.
Israeli historians like Simba Flapan, Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim,
Ilan Pappe, Marc Ellis, Michael Lerner, and others have written
honest studies of the expulsion of the Palestinians. Most recently
Dr. Shlomo Sand, a son of Holocaust survivors, and professor at
the University of Tel Aviv argues that the Jews who settled modern
Israel may not descend from the Palestinian Jews of the Roman
era but that the Palestinian Semites locked into Gaza and the
West Bank might have a better claim to being the actual descendants
of Palestine's original Jews, even though they later converted
3) Both the United
States and Israel claim that their special security needs justify
violence, unchecked militarism, torture, violations of human rights
and international law, and imperial expansion. The United States
violates the UN Charter's proscription of preemptive wars by engaging
in vigilante wars. It employs occupation, torture and rendition
as security needs. Israel stands in violation of the 1948 UN Resolution
194 saying that Palestinian refugees violently removed from their
homes should be allowed to return. It also is in violation of
the 1967 UN Resolution 242 citing "the inadmissibility of
the acquisition of territory by war," after Israel tripled
its size in the six day war. This Resolution was reinforced by
Resolution 338 in 1971.
Both the United States
and Israel claim unique victimhood. Both make strategic use of
recent tragedies to claim the immaculate conception of their expansionist
policies, the Holocaust for Israel and 9/11 and an unspecified
pandemic "terrorism" for the US.
4) Both the US and
Israel are sacrificing their original idealism at the altar of
empire. Early Israel birthed ideals of justice and peace that
inspired Christianity and Islam and found their way into the constitutions
of many modern states and international law. That great moral
history has gone sour. The United States is no longer a City built
on a hill to edify the world, and modern Israel is no longer a
representative of prophetic Judaism which was to be a light to
5) Both make claims
of moral unimpeachability by virtue of their very identity. Illustrative
of this, the erstwhile House Un-American Activities Committee
was predicated on "American" as a moral norm, so that
to be un-American would be evil, making you liable to criminal
prosecution. In a similar way, any criticism of Israeli policy
is branded as anti-Semitic. Jews who criticize Israeli policies
are dubbed "self-hating Jews." (I would see them as
justice-loving and peace-loving Jews.)
6) Both the United
States and Israel preach nuclear disarmament while armed to the
teeth with nuclear weapons. Both are like the village sot preaching
7) Both the US and
Israel use strategic amnesia as policy to cover over inconvenient
imperial, expansionist, and genocidal truths.
I now turn to examples
of this enforced forgetfulness.
The United States
The US forgets its
long romance and early marriage to state-sponsored violence, i.e.
to war. The long tenured American pretense is that we have only
gone to war reluctantly. We forget how we provoked conflicts when
we wanted war. We remember nothing of war as persistent failure.
Prior to the Washington black wall Vietnam memorial, American
memorials were triumphalist. The gore and blood were buried under
monuments of feigned glory. The antidote to this long-tenured
denial is remembrance.
Howard Zinn strips
away the fog and distorted memory of America's wars. In each case
we thought our cause just but in each case war was the wrong solution.
In 1898 Spain was oppressing Cuba so we went to war and then we
took over oppressing Cuba. We also picked up the Philippines,
Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam in the process.
North Korea was invading
South Korea. There was a dictatorship in North Korea and a dictatorship
in South Korea, so we went to war. The result? Two to three million
dead and a dictatorship in North Korea and a dictatorship in South
Korea and an unending presence of American soldiers in South Korea.
The Revolutionary War that gave us independence from England is
hallowed in song and festival. But Canada won Independence without
bloody revolution. In the year before shots were fired at Lexington
and Concord, farmers had thrown the British out in Western Massachusetts
without firing a shot. The American Indians do not celebrate the
Revolutionary War. In the Proclamation of 1763, England drew a
line and said you could not go westward into Indian territory.
After the war that line was erased and genocide and the American
"settlement" process began.
The Civil War ended slavery but other nations ended slavery without
slaughter. 600,000 people died in the Civil War, equivalent to
five million today, and amputated limbs filled the bloody fields
severed from bodies without benefit of anesthesia. Did the Second
World War end fascism, did it end militarism, imperialism? It
did end fifty million lives and inaugurated nuclear weaponry.
The idea that only war could stop Hitler ignores the peace-making
failure that ended World War I making a Hitler almost inevitable.
And what about Hitler
and what about Rwanda? Militarists always return to the charge
that non-violence would not have stopped Hitler. Rwanda they note
was where we should have gone to war to stop genocide, but we
failed to do so.
One of deepest convictions
that grips our imagination in its steely claws is the belief that
the bullet is the final arbiter. When the ultimate push comes
to the ultimate shove, sound the trumpet, bring on the marines.
Did not even Gandhi say that if there were only two choices in
the face of evil, cowardice or violence, he would prefer violence?
However, and this is
key, there is a third option. It is called peace-making. The poets
of early Israel imagined it; we read their scriptures but ignore
or forget what is there. Peace-making is intelligent politics,
and exercise in non-violent power. The Rwanda argument fails to
remember the years preceding that eruption of violence. A distinguished
group of experts put it this way: "Had there been international
determination to make the Arusha peace accord work-had there been
an amnesty provision in the agreement; a demobilization plan;
a genuine attempt to deal with the refugee problem; radio broadcasts
to challenge the views of extremists; humanitarian coordination;
provision of adequate policing; resources such as riot gear, maps,
up-to-date information, early warning systems linked to institutions
that could initiate preventative nonviolent action; and a culture
of accountability and strong international institutions-the genocide
would have been prevented. The failure in Rwanda was a failure
of politics-the result of a lack of faith in and commitment to
the slow and unglamourous work of nonviolent political action
options only seem morally compelling because of a host of lost
The reparations imposed
on Germany after World War I made a Hitler inevitable. Wars become
inevitable because nations have no Department of Peace working
to spot and defuse tensions. American vigilante wars in Vietnam,
Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are waged because we forget the
historic breakthrough made in the United Nations Charter. Richard
Falk writes: "World War II ended with the historic understanding
that recourse to war between states could no longer be treated
as a matter of national discretion, but must be regulated to the
extent possible through rules administered by international institutions.
The basic legal framework was embodied in the UN Charter, a multilateral
treaty largely crafted by American diplomats and legal advisers.
Its essential feature was to entrust the Security Council with
administering a prohibition of recourse to international force
(Article 2, Section 4) by states except in circumstances of self-defense,
which itself was restricted to responses to a prior 'armed attack'
(Article 51), and only then until the Security Council had the
chance to review the claim.
action, coordinated by the UN, could also address internal problems
of nations when crimes against humanity are ongoing, as in Darfur
and Zimbabwe at this writing. Articles 43 and 45 of the UN Charter
provide for this, though there has been little political will
to do this. This use of the UN, when in place and organized, would
also act as a deterrent and would buttress resolutions of the
Security Council just as the presence of a well organized police
force deters crime within a nation.
We forget. And this
conniving forgetfulness allows us to think war inevitable.
We are fond of thinking
that we go to war as noble, reluctant warriors responding to a
crisis. We forget out inveterate habit of faking crises to find
an excuse for the war. Nafeez Ahmed writes that our wars "have
been justified on the basis of either [our] provocations or fabrications
of attacks on US symbols of power. The systematic use of this
indicates that it is, indeed, intrinsic to the structure
of US decision-making
." Historian John C. Miller traces
this use of provocation to justify war back to Sam Adams. In his
Stanford University Press book, Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda,
Miller shows that Boston revolutionaries under the leadership
of Sam Adams provoked the British into "the Boston Massacre,"
the shooting of five Americans. Adams plastered the town with
posted notices-supposedly from the British!!-that the British
troops were about to attack the people. This precipitated chaos
that led to the shooting incident. Adams then said the massacre
was "proof that there was no alternative to war." That
became a mantra of American policy used by every president in
all of America's wars.
The American public
was averse to going to war at the beginning of World War II. Robert
Stinnett, a naval officer in that war, earned 10 battle stars
and a Presidential Unit Citation. After seventeen years of archival
research, gathering over 200,000 documents and interviews, he
concluded that the US deliberately provoked the attack on Pearl
Harbor to rally Americans to war. Although his book has been challenged
by some scholars, he does include in his study an "Action
Proposal" from Lieutenant Commander Arthur McCollum, dated
October 7, 1940, urging eight actions to provoke Japan to attack.
All eight were, in fact, executed and Japan attacked and Roosevelt,
like Sam Adams, had his excuse for war. He gave his "day
of infamy" speech. Stinnett's book is entitled Day of Deceit.
It is now widely conceded
that the Tonkin Bay attack by North Vietnam on August 4, 1964
(used by Johnson to get Congress to pass the Tonkin Bay Resolution)
never happened just as Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Again, we will lie and deceive to make war happen. "Conventional"
American wisdom tries not to remember this.
There is no irrefutable
proof that the US government provoked the 9/11 attacks. What is
a matter of record is that members of that government planned
a "Project for the New American Century," a "blueprint
for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of
a great power rival, and shaping the international security order
in line with American principles and interests." What is
also an uncontested fact is that the attacks were permitted "to
occur entirely unhindered for over one and a half hours in the
most restricted airspace in the world." Rigid protocols are
in place for the immediate interception of any plane that is off
course. When golf professional Payne Stewart's plane missed a
scheduled turn, heading north instead of south to Texas, fighter
planes were in the air quickly from Florida, Oklahoma, and North
Dakota. On 9/11 no fighter planes were dispatched until after
the plane hit the Pentagon. That is a fact testified to by the
chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Even during our undefinable
"war on terror," our amnesia is actively present. (Gore
Vidal says a war on terrorism makes no more sense than a war on
dandruff.) Terrorism is defined as attacking innocent people to
send a message to their government. Hitler did it in Rotterdam
and Coventry and we and our allies joined in. As Michael Walzer
said, terrorism "became a feature of conventional war"
in World War II. The two greatest acts of terrorism in history,
the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were done under the flag
of the United States of America, the nation that is now sanctimoniously
denouncing terror. Amnesia is an effective analgesic and an essential
ingredient of American hypocrisy.
When it comes to war,
the US has multiple layers of forgetfulness. We forget that wars
are fought by the lower classes. The upper classes, like five-deferment
Dick Cheney, have "other priorities." At the time of
the Revolutionary War, "the rich, it turned out, could avoid
the draft by paying for substitutes; the poor had to serve
The same is true at the time of the Civil War. As Howard Zinn
writes: the wealthy Mr. Morgan had escaped military service in
the Civil War by paying $300.00 to a substitute. So did John D.
Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Philip Armour, Jay Gould, and James
Mellon. Mellon's father had written to him that "a man may
be a patriot without risking his own life or sacrificing his health.
There are plenty of lives less valuable." We forget that
"We the People" do not go to war; We the Poor do the
fighting and We the Rich usually end up getting richer.
Marilyn Young, in her
essay "Remembering to Forget," looks at an appalling
American atrocity from the Korean War, called by historians "the
forgotten war," and shows how it immediately became a forbidden
memory. The massacre at No Gun Ri in Korea, however, did happen.
Korean refugees, who were driven from their homes by American
bombs that had leveled their cities and towns were herded onto
a railroad track, where US planes then began strafing them. "Running
for their lives, dragging their children, abandoning the dead
and dying, people took shelter in a culvert beneath the tracks.
American soldiers then opened direct fire on the people in the
culvert. One Korean survivor, Chung Koo Hun, told a Washington
Post reporter that American soldiers then walked among the wounded,
'checking every wounded person and shooting them if they moved.'"
When this story leaked
out into public view years later, Democratic Senator James Webb,
once Secretary of the Navy, wrote an angry rebuttal in the Wall
Street Journal. Webb regretted that the incident had been dredged
up again and he blamed rapacious lawyers "trying to squeeze
millions out of a long-ago tragedy of the sort that seems always
to accompany battle fought where other people live." As Young
comments, we might well wonder why Americans like to fight their
battles where other people live.
Like a cuckolded lover
who cannot face the fact of betrayal, or like an addict who is
not ripe for recovery, we deny, we insist on forgetting, and we
will keep on paying in blood and money for our addiction to state
sponsored violence. To transpose the words of the Gospel, show
me your budget and I will tell you where your heart is.
The Center for Defense
Information notes that the 2008 official budget for military spending
was drastically understated and that the real figure was over
900 billion dollars when all war expenses were included. Rounded
off, what that means is that this nation, which cannot decide
whether basic health care is a human right, is spending on kill-power:
77 billion dollars
19 billion dollars
Over 2 ½ billion
dollars a day
Over 100 million dollars
Almost 2 million dollars
And over 31 thousand
dollars a seond.
With just a portion
of that wasted money, all education could be free, health care,
including reproductive health care, could be universal, world
hunger, illiteracy, and thirst could be ended, slums transformed,
and full employment guaranteed as we move from capital intensive
military spending to labor intensive social and green infrastructure
As already noted, Israel
is our soul mate when it comes to tactically imposed forgetfulness.
Two incidents illustrate
how effectively and ruthlessly forgetfulness can be enforced.
On June 8, 1967, during Israel's six day war with its neighbors,
Israeli naval and air forces, with full knowledge of what they
were doing, attacked and almost sank an American ship, the USS
Liberty. In a relentless one hour attack, they murdered 34 American
seamen and wounded 171. Consider these well forgotten facts:
planes flew over the USS liberty every half hour on a cloudless
day starting at dawn. American sailors sun-bathing on deck waved
at the Israeli pilots as they flew over. Nine hours before the
attack the Israeli pilots had identified the ship with its American
colors aloft as American, and from its prominent hull markings
they were even able to identify and report the name of the ship,
the USS Liberty. Israel also knew the ship was unarmed, alone,
The unarmed surveillance
ship was sailing in international waters off the coast of Egypt.
The sailors on board the Liberty were cheering reports of Israeli
victories in the ongoing war. Suddenly in a total surprise, in
the early afternoon, in a carefully coordinated naval and air
force attack, Israeli planes and torpedo boats pummeled the ship
with 821 shells including napalm and torpedoed and almost sank
the ship. Their clear purpose was to sink the ship and leave no
survivors, witnessed by the fact that the Israeli torpedo boats
shot and sank the life rafts put out by the crew of the Liberty.
As recently reported by former CIA officer Ray McGovern, the following
exchanges took place between an Israeli pilot and Israeli headquarters:
Israeli pilot to ground
control: "This is an American Ship. Do you still want us
Ground control: "Yes,
Pilot: "But sir,
it's an American ship-I can see the flag."
Ground control: "Never
mind. Hit it"
The Israeli's shot
down the American flag. But first, to prevent an SOS going out
they jammed and then disabled the communications antennae on the
deck. The sailors hoisted a larger American flag. That flag was
also riddled with bullets. As the attack raged, seaman Terry Halbardier
eventually rigged up a makeshift antenna and signaled the US Fleet.
When that Mayday signal for help went out, the Israelis heard
it and the relentless one hour attack stopped instantly. Approaching
Israeli helicopters filled with armed soldiers coming in to finish
off the American crew suddenly retreated when the Mayday alarm
The Israelis immediately
claimed it was an innocent mistake, which is a lie of epic proportions.
At first President Johnson protested and said it was not a mistake
but an Israeli deliberate attack on the US surveillance ship so
that we would not pick up their signals during their very successful
six day war, a war that tripled the size of Israel. However, Johnson,
taken up with his own failing war in Vietnam and under pressure
from his Jewish constituency in the United States, yielded to
the "innocent mistake" lie and buried the incident in
a rushed eight day "inquiry" that was haphazardly completed
before all the dead were buried. The surviving crew of the Liberty
were "threatened with court-martial and prison if they so
much as mentioned to their wives what had actually happened. They
were enjoined as well from discussing it with one another."
The suggestion was even made at the Pentagon that we, the Americans,
should sink the Liberty "in order that newspaper men would
not be able to photograph her and thus inflame public opinion
against the Israelis." There was more concern for Israel
than there was about our own sailors murdered by the Israelis.
Admiral John McCain,
father of Senator John McCain, was a major figure in the coverup.
He barred investigators from going to Israel to seek interviews
or to view the logs, diaries, or radio communications from the
attackers. The Washington Post called his investigation "a
The truth of the deliberate
attack, the first such surprise attack on an American ship since
Pearl Harbor, was clear at the time. Secretary of State Dean Rusk
fumed over the attack and said it was not an accident. Clark Clifford
said it was "inconceivable" that it was an accident
given the excellence of Israeli intelligence. Robert McNamara
issued a release from the Department of Defense that the Israeli
claim of an "accident" was "implausible."
Arthur Goldberg, the American ambassador to the United Nations
confided in Mr. Harman (the Israeli ambassador) that the United
States had intercepted the communications of Israeli pilots Identifying
the ship as American."
A cursory Israeli "investigation"
found no fault or even negligence and no one was ever punished.
The lack of punishment was further proof that the Israeli forces
were following orders. Israel offered no records for inspection
of the attack and made no pilots or seamen available for an inquiry.
Israel paid a token reparation. Immediate calls for a Congressional
investigation were quashed and the coverup continues to this day.
It is the only such incident of an attack on an American ship
that has never been investigated by Congress. Calls to finally
investigate it while some of the survivors of the USS Liberty
and some of the Israeli attackers are still alive go unheeded.
My appeals to Wisconsin Senators Feingold and Kohl receive no
reply. Senator Feingold, the maverick in the senate, will take
on almost anyone, but not Israel.
The attack on the Liberty
should not be allowed to be buried for the sake of the murdered
dead and wounded of the Liberty crew. But the attack on the Liberty
was also a symbolic policy-maker. It had disastrous consequences.
George Ball, a former undersecretary of state, said that the Liberty
coverup set the tone for US/Israeli relations in the following
years. He wrote: "If America's leaders did not have the courage
to punish Israel for the blatant murder of American citizens,
it seem clear that their American friends would let them get away
with almost anything." And so we have. And so we still do.
Once you burn memories, you end up burning people.
The attack on the USS
Liberty is a forbidden memory and forbidden memories have evil
progeny. With ten million dollars of American aid coming their
way every day, Israel has turned Gaza into the largest jail in
the world, with 1.4 million malnourished inmates. The December
2008 attack on Gaza which continued the wrecking of hospitals,
sewer systems, schools, water wells, homes, and mosques went unpunished
by the Obama administration. Ten million dollars continues to
flow daily to Israel from the nation that has become the paymaster
for Israel's crimes. Only twice did American presidents call a
halt to American support for Israeli expansionism. Eisenhower
did it in 1956 when Israel had occupied Sinai and the Gaza strip.
He threatened to "halt all foreign aid and eliminate private
tax-deductible donations to Israel if it did not withdraw"
and they withdrew. George H. W. Bush did it in 1989. Jimmy Carter
reports: President Bush "threatened to withhold a substantial
portion of America's $10 million of daily financial aid to Israel
unless the settlements were stopped between Jerusalem and Bethlehem
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir halted construction." Construction
resumed when Bush Sr. left office and continues to this day as
Prime Minister Netanyahu senses the same reliable old weakness
in President Obama. Impotent pleas to withdraw from illegally
occupied land without financial sanctions will not work. They
never have; they never will.
Talk of a two state,
Palestinian and Israeli, has become a mask. Israel is succeeding
in making it impossible. As Eduardo Galeano writes: "Little
of Palestine remains. Bit by bit, Israel is erasing it from the
map." It is becoming a de facto single state on the apartheid
model. In 1999, Ehud Barak, former Israeli Prime Minister, told
The Jerusalem Post that if there were a single bi-national state
there would be no Jewish state unless the Arabs are denied a vote
in what he called an "apartheid state." Apartheid, I
submit, is what has happened. Gaza is a prison in shambles: Israel
is tightening its grip on East Jerusalem, limiting Palestinians'
movement and voting. In May 2008, The Economist magazine reported
that "in the West Bank, Israeli settlements and military
zones take up 40 percent of the land." The World Bank and
the BBC reports that the Jewish settlers control 80 percent of
the West Bank water. The 2.5 million Palestinians are divided
into "dozens of largely separate enclaves." The 1.1
Palestinians inside Israel have "long suffered legal and
economic discrimination." Note the words: "separate
enclaves," "discrimination," vote deprivation:
all of that is the language of apartheid, American-financed apartheid.
Once you burn memories,
you end up burning people.
The Murder of Rachel
Another more recent
incident is being pushed into the "forbidden memory"
hole. On March 16, 2003, a 23 year old American citizen, Rachel
Corrie, as part of a group committed to nonviolence, was peacefully
protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza. She had
previously been trying to prevent Israeli forces from destroying
water wells. As in the case of the USS Liberty, this was a cloudless
day. Rachel was fully visible, wearing an orange flack-jacket
and speaking into a bull-horn. She saw the Israeli bulldozer which
was used to destroy Palestinian homes heading toward the home
of the Nasrallah family, occupied by two brothers, their wives
and five children. The American made Caterpillar bulldozer had
two occupants in the cab and nearby there was an armored personnel
carrier observing. Rachel was high enough to look straight into
the cab of the bulldozer and into the eyes of its two drivers.
The bulldozer did not stop. Her fellow workers screamed and waved
their arms, but the bulldozer did not stop. She was run over twice
and killed. She died in the arms of Alice, a Jewish member of
her group from England.
Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon promised President Bush a "thorough, credible, and
transparent" investigation. As in the case of the USS Liberty,
the investigation concluded that it was simply an innocent accident.
The US State Department wrote to Rachel's family that the investigation
by Israel was neither thorough, credible or transparent and the
State Department also testified before a subcommittee of the US
House of International Relations Committee to the same effect.
But nothing was done about it. Israel once again could murder
an American citizen with impunity. George Ball was right, and
Congress ignores repeated appeals to investigate. All who are
silent, in the Congress and in the citizenry of this nation, are
complicit in this coverup of murder.
The command of Israel
and the United States is that the murder of Rachel Corrie is to
be forgotten. This is a command that must be disobeyed. The nonviolent,
peace-making response to truth suppressed is truth remembered,
and remembered out loud
very, very loud.
The United States chooses
to forget its imperial past and to ignore its imperial present.
It chooses to forget its passionate commitment to state-sponsored
violence, war, as the final, most trusted arbiter. At this moment
President Barack Obama embraces this fanatical faith in violence
by trying to kill our way to success in Iraq, Afghanistan, and
Pakistan while spending ourselves to death on more kill-power.
Israel is courting
disaster by stubbornly forgetting March 2002. That is when all
twenty-two members of the Arab League offered to recognize Israel's
right to exist and have normal relations with Israel. This offer
has since been repeatedly reconfirmed. In April 2002, the Organization
of the Islamic Conference which includes fifty-seven nations concurred
with the Arab League offer, and the Iranian delegation expressed
its full approval. The condition was Israel's compliance with
the United Nations Resolutions 194, 242, 338 and the return to
the pre-1967 borders. Hamas has said it will acknowledge Israel's
right to live in peace within its pre-1967 borders.
Israel ignores that
since it would take away their prime excuse for imperial expansion,
their claim of unique victimhood and insecurity. Israel even forgets
the words of David Ben Gurion shortly after the 1967 war when
Israel was drunk with military conquest. At a conference of the
Labor Party Ben-Gurion punctured the euphoria telling the party
that Israel was overextended, that it had bitten off more than
it could handle and that it should return almost all the conquered
destroy Israel and much of the Middle East. The nuclear genie
is out of the bottle and bombing Iran will not put it back in.
As Marc Ellis says, "the scenario of Israel going down and
bringing the middle East down as its last act is hardly far-fetched."
Israel's intransigence may provoke a nuclear holocause giving
Hitler and evil posthumous victory. Before it is too late, Israel
should remember the words of the prophet Micah. You cannot build
"Zion in bloodshed" (Micah 3:10). Zechariah said it
also: "Neither by force of arms nor by brute strength"
would the people be saved (Zech 4:6). The United States and Israel,
these twinned amnesiacs, forget prophetic wisdom to their own
peril and undoing.
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