Thursday, April 14, 2005

Middle East Crazy

Dr. Lenora Fulani was back in the news this morning, on NY1.

She got in trouble with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith back in 1995 for a statement that many considered anti-Semitic:

A 1995 Anti-Defamation League report quotes Lenora Fulani as saying Jews had to sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism to function as mass murderers of people of color in order to keep it.
Whether Fulani's statement was anti-Semitic or not misses the point. The point is that the radical Left has had a habit since the late '60s of painting the Arabs as black and oppressed and the Israelis as white and oppressors.

They've been framing it that way since the IDF whipped the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the June 1967 Six Day War, which awarded Israel the West Bank, among other things. On Day Four, Moshe Dayan wanted to turn the West Bank over to the Palestinians as a separatist state that would be federated with Israel. Not because he was a bigtime peacenik, but because, to paraphrase the one-eyed general, "Who needs all those friggin' Palestinians?" He was roundly voted down by the Israeli hawks, among them General Ariel Sharon, who appears to be having second thoughts on the matter lately.

This is a topic I usually avoid, since as Tom Friedman says, everybody goes a little crazy when you discuss it. But it pisses me off as much as it pisses me off when right-wing Zionists--both Israeli and American--insist that God personally handed everything between the Sinai and the Jordan to the Jews, provided you're the kind of Jew the right-wing Zionists want you to be.

The truth is a lot more nuanced than either the right or the left want us to believe, as usual. And yes, I use the word "nuance" knowing that I thereby out myself as somebody who uses words in French.

What's actually going on in Israel is two Semitic tribes fighting over one diddly-shit piece of land, something that's been going on all over the Middle East for a long time. The founders of the modern nation-state of Israel were Caucasians from Eastern and Central Europe (driven out by "white" oppression) but Israeli Jews today can be of any color, as Arabs and Moslems are.

All countries, including countries in the Middle East, have their own propaganda. And even the word "propaganda" is means the bullshit the other guy is saying.

Having been uneasy residents of Europe for many centuries and open to assimilation and the Enlightenment makes it easy for Jews to be identified as Westerners, even though the uneasiness was largely the result of abuse from European Christians who perceived even assimilated Jews as being non-white. Much of Israel's population is now from Arab and North African countries. Put an Israeli and a Jordanian or a Moroccan in an outfit from the GAP and you'd have a hard time telling them apart.

Because Israel and Turkey are the only Middle Eastern countries that come close to being representative democracies, and because Israel, like the US, got its independence by fighting the British colonizers, Israel has been considered a friend of the US and was considered an ally in the Cold War. But we've poured money into Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran at least as much as we have into Israel.

Right now Israel, like the US, has a right wing government in charge, which has attained the clout it has by knowing how to use their citizens' fear of Islamic fanaticism. Only in Israel, the situation is complicated by the civil wars in that part of the world, and the sheer physical immediacy of the suicide bombers. And even in Israel, where there is no such thing as a Conscientious Objector, the rhetoric hasn't been as heated as it has been in post 9-11 America.

Hey, before 9-11, I just thought of any immigrant from Israel, Lebanon, Syria, etc. as being "The Middle Eastern Guy." Stupid me...I didn't realize I was supposed to be politically correct one way or the other. As a person of Eastern European Jewish descent, I gave Israelis a slight edge, although any Israeli will be quick to tell you there are huge differences between Israelis and American Jews.

India/Pakistan got their independence from the Brits at the same time as the partition of Palestine, but you don't see, at least in the US, hatemongers and academic bullies trying to polarize people over these countries in the same way. And you wouldn't want to be a Kurd in Turkey, but you don't hear that much here about their oppression. Only over the land where the Bible Belt is the scene of the actual Bible do you have everybody being such a zealous expert and holder of the absolute truth.

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