Taking a Stand
An Inbox letter in the March 3 LEO Weekly asked why the six people who wrote a column criticizing Israel’s human-rights violations did not also criticize Iran, Sudan and China. I do oppose the repressive policies of those countries. Fortunately, they are not being supported by my tax dollars. I focused on Israel because it is the only country I know of that is taking massive amounts of U.S. military and economic aid and routinely using it to commit crimes against humanity.
Because it is our money, we are morally obligated to stop it from being misused. I am especially obligated to speak out because I am Jewish, which means these crimes are not only being committed with my taxes, they are being committed in my name. If I did not speak out, I would consider myself complicit in crimes against humanity.
Russ Greenleaf, participant in the Gaza Freedom March, New Albany
Gray Area Arguments
When did it become wrong to take one side? Acknowledging a conflict’s complexities and gray areas is important to give an issue the depth it deserves. Indeed, a person can support one side and at the same time recognize the nuances. By denouncing the racist and colonialist impulses of the Israeli state, one does not simultaneously uphold the faulty and undemocratic regimes elsewhere in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world — that type of binary thinking is incredibly reductive. Nobody says that if you don’t like what Israel does, then you must believe in the fascist regimes of Iran. Those two issues are not on the same plane. They can be criticized separately, but the denunciation of one does not at all imply the acceptance of the other. It would be impossible to write a commentary that equally criticized EVERYTHING that is wrong with EVERY country in the world just to appease readers like Deb Aubespin (LEO Weekly, March 3). Those six guest commentators chose to focus on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and, for that, I commend them.
Secondly, the “tiny, lonely outpost” idea of Israel is highly contentious. What that erroneously implies is that Israel is acting out of self-defense, when numerous documents, including the Goldstone Report, suggest otherwise. The atrocious acts committed during Operation Cast Lead are not out of self-defense but rather part of a much larger plan to inflict collective punishment — a war crime, as explicated in the Geneva Conventions.
So let’s not obfuscate the issue: The occupation is wrong, the siege of Gaza is wrong, and the U.S. support of Israel is wrong. The other issues mentioned by Aubespin would be great material for another article or conversation.
Appropriately, March just happens to be Israeli Apartheid Month. I urge others to seriously consider boycotting corporations such as Nestle, Coca-Cola and Starbucks that invest in Israeli occupation.
Amanda Yee, Highlands
Why are so many Americans ready to correct other countries, but so reluctant to correct those misdeeds for which the United States is responsible? Our relationship to the violations of human rights by other countries such as China, Iran, Africa, etc., and those violations committed by Israel against the Palestinians differ in two respects: Israel is a military aggressor occupying land that is not part of Israel. The United States participates in these illegal acts by giving Israel money, military supplies and diplomatic protection in the Security Council.
In 1947, the U.N. created Israel upon adopting the Partition Resolution, which divided Palestine into a Jewish and a Palestinian state. Before the partition became effective, Jewish terrorists with a secret army seized all land allocated to the Jewish state and 20 percent of land allocated to Palestinians. The United States immediately recognized this rogue regime and set off a war that ended in armistice. In 1967, Israel occupied all of Palestine by an act of military aggression and continues to do so in violation of international law.
Israeli occupation of Palestine has been harsh, controlling all movements into, out of and through the country, preventing access to food and medical supplies. The U.N. Goldstone Report describes the latest “incursion” by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians. Israel has the fourth strongest military force in the world; it possesses nuclear weapons and won’t let the U.N. inspect; and, in 1967, it attacked the U.S. naval ship USS Liberty and fired on lifeboats as sailors attempted to escape.
Americans need to accept responsibility for our actions. Israel is the basic cause of instability in the Middle East, and we need to stop aiding these illegal acts and require Israel to obey the same laws demanded of civilized nations.
Stanley A. Stratford, Frankfort, Ky.
Deb Aubespin’s March 3 letter about the commentary on Gaza misunderstands why American critics sometimes turn their attention to the conduct of Israel with special focus. Unlike Iran, Sudan, Nigeria or indeed nearly any other country one could mention, Israel maintains a special relationship with the United States. We share deep cultural, historical, philosophical and political bonds. Israel is by a considerable margin the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. And we provide Israel consistent legal and political cover for its policies.
Because of this special relationship, Americans possess not only a special ability to influence Israel’s conduct, they are also justified in harboring special expectations for Israel. One has little to expect from a dictatorship or a theocracy. But when a country and its apologists commonly brag about it being “the only democracy in the Middle East,” perhaps it’s not wrong to ask that country to live up to the standard. As many of us see it, being “the only democracy in the Middle East” ought to serve as a basis for accountability, for respect of law and for the recognition of human rights. (Anyway, isn’t Turkey a democracy?)
But, most importantly, Americans of good will are justified in paying special attention to Israel because the United States is so deeply complicit in Israel’s crimes. When a friend of mine was in Gaza not too long ago, she picked up a shell fired by an Israeli soldier. Seeing her fascination with it, her Palestinian companion remarked, “Keep it. You paid for it.” My friend’s companion was right. Now, of course, the United States is complicit not only in Israel’s crimes, but U.S. complicity with Israel’s crimes is deeply and rightfully troubling.
Aubespin’s letter also suggests she doesn’t appreciate the scale of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, but the disproportionate scale of those crimes also justifies special attention. Many Arab countries have exploited and mistreated Palestine. Palestinians, too, as the Goldstone Report documents, have committed war crimes. But no other country in the region has illegally occupied another nation’s territory so completely for so long and subjected its people to the level of brutality, dispossession and repression Israel has inflicted on the Palestinians. Moreover, the crimes of no other country in the Middle East have produced such destabilizing effects across the world, including blowback against the United States.
Peter S. Fosl, Highlands
Alternative media sources allowed the world to witness Israel’s brutal massacre in Gaza that began Dec. 27, 2008, and continued for three weeks. The world watched, and any human whose being had not hardened to stone was shocked. That’s why the “talking points” used by Deb Aubespin in her defense of Israel are so ineffective. Attempting to divert attention away from Israel’s culpability, she chided the six Louisvillians for their activism on behalf of Gazans and pointed off in all directions to selective world problems she felt they should address instead. Diverting attention is not going to work any longer, Aubespin.
Stop claiming Israel is the only democracy in the Near East. Both Lebanon and Turkey have functioning multi-party Republics. Israel’s democracy now appears to be quickly morphing into an apartheid state due to its continued colonial expansion into the Palestinian territories, rendering a viable, two-state solution unworkable. So now will it be apartheid or a democratic, one-person/one-vote state for all? It looks like Israel has chosen apartheid.
In spite of this, Israel’s Arab neighbors have offered a permanent peace to Israel on the condition that it return to its 1967 borders and allow Palestinians to form their own viable, sovereign state. Israel continues to ignore this offer. Go figure.
Marcia Schneider, Louisville