Monday, January 5, 2009

When the Lesser Evil Party is Not a Lesser Evil

As happens when Israel “acts out,” there is little to do but despair. So much injustice, so little resistance – not among the world’s peoples, including the American people, many of whom evidently know better – but among governments and the media that serve them. As usual, the U.S. is First Among Scoundrels.

[In fairness, our media have reported on “civilian casualties” and they have run comments from people on “the other side.” Being “fair and balanced,” however, those who dare utter obvious but politically inadmissible assessments are without fail balanced by interviews with Israeli government officials or other apologists for Israel. One can only wonder – would they have covered the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in a similarly fair and balanced way?]

Thus the Bush government blocked a Security Council resolution this weekend calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. [With just two more weeks of Cheney/Bush rule, one can only hope that this was their last egregious crime!] There was hardly a peep of dissent from within our political class. Our “liberals” especially, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed along with other Lesser Evil Party luminaries, have offered unqualified support to Israel and Bush. Their abject servility to the Israel lobby probably makes little difference in this instance, however; after all, no country disregards international public opinion – and international law – with the wanton brazenness of the state of Israel. And why not, with the U.S. giving them all the “get out of jail free” cards they could possibly want!

This leaves “us” with little to do except despair over our impotence. In our “democracy,” we have no means of political expression. In this case, even more than in the days before Bush launched his war against Iraq, Democrats, almost without exception (Dennis Kucinich is always an exception), are unwilling to offer even mute opposition. All we can do, alas, is write for each other -- in the hope that some of it will find its way to a larger (already overwhelmingly sympathetic) audience. There’s been a lot of that in the past few days. Some of the preaching to the converted (and a few others?) has been excellent. For context, a concept all but unknown in our media, see, for example, Robert Perry’s piece in, “The Long and Bloody Hypocrisy of U.S. Acts of Terrorism.” Glenn Greenwald’s latest in, “Orwell, Blinding Tribalism, Selective Terroism and Israel/Gaza” offers fresh insights – particularly on the remarkable, but entirely predictable, phenomenon of “liberal” support for Israel’s latest aggression.

I have one other reading recommendation: Henry Siegman’s “The Last Chance at Middle East Peace” in the January 12 Nation. Siegman, a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America, has been arguing for years about the need for the U.S. to force Israel to act in its own interest by accepting the so-called Clinton Parameters of December 2000, as elaborated at Taba in January 2001. Siegman thinks that time is running out: that Israeli settlements on the West Bank have all but made a two state “solution” impossible, and that if Obama doesn’t act decisively within the next year or so, the chances for any durable two state solution will be irreversibly lost. The events of the past few days in Gaza make his argument even more compelling.

I am not an unequivocal supporter of a two-state solution: I think that, in light of the advances registered in the American and French Revolutions, the idea of an ethnic and/or confessional state is atavistic. And I find the idea of ethnic cleansing, the principle upon which the state of Israel exists, repellent. On the other hand, given the state of opinion among all the interested parties, there seems to be no other way to arrive at a lasting peace.

Will Obama rise to the occasion? It’s not quite yet time to abandon all hope, but the prospects are dim. That’s why it surely is time to begin to plan strategies, enlisting the large numbers of Americans who don’t buy the Israel can do no wrong line of our political class --especially those of us Chosen folks who can rise above ethnic chauvinism -- into something like the grass-roots, civil society struggles that helped bring down Apartheid in South Africa. With so many powerful forces mobilized against justice, it will be harder this time to launch boycotts and to promote divestment; and, needless to say, getting the U.S. government to agree to sanctions is all but out of the question. In view of how utterly dependent Israel is on U.S. support, if sanctions were politically possible they would be unnecessary. But, with or without Obama’s aid, Israel must be stopped! It is necessary for national and international security; and, even were it not, the victims of the Israeli occupation deserve at least a semblance of justice. Now is therefore the time to ponder how to proceed – and how to integrate that struggle into the broader struggle in and over our despicably abject Lesser Evil Party.

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