In light of recent developments in the debate over the rights of Palestine and the future of Israel — spurred on the President’s speech on the Arab Spring and Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress — I have a few things I would like to be considered.
Steven Begakis’ piece in Friday’s Nexus raised quite a few concerns in my mind. First of all, he claimed that the majority of Americans are pro-Israel. He appears to have arrived at this conclusion after witnessing the cold reception that Obama received after reiterating his stance on the conflict at the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee’s annual Policy Conference, and the subsequent standing ovations that greeted Netanyahu’s remarks. I really do not think that the people who would attend an AIPAC event are the best population to survey if you want to find out what the people of the United States think.
This brings me to my next point, which is the problem of AIPAC itself. This organization is a perfect example of how corrupt American “democracy” has become. Just as oil companies are able to spend millions of dollars each year to secure their substantial subsidies and to attack organizations like the EPA, so too does the Israel lobby buy off our members of congress with generous contributions that get them elected. If you think your representatives defend your interests, you are mistaken. They want to keep their jobs, and a pretty damn good way to do that is to kiss the ass of whatever lobbying organization will support your campaign, including AIPAC. Now, do not call me an anti-Semite quite yet. My problem is with the lobbying structure of Washington, not with AIPAC.
Speaking of anti-Semitism, the fact that just about any individual who questions the “rights” of Israel or sympathizes with the Palestinian cause is considered to be an anti-Semite right up there with Erwin Rommel is part of what is wrong with Begakis’ dialogue and with the conservative approach to U.S.-Israeli relations. Just because I identify with the six million Palestinian refugees who live in the occupied territories or throughout the Diaspora does not mean that I hate Jews. Frankly, that assumption offends me in a profound way.
Moving to the so-called “right” of Israel to exist, I would like to point out that this notion is a falsehood. Prepare for a history lesson. Theodore Herzl, largely accredited to be the founder of the Zionist movement, did not once refer to the “right” of a Jewish state to exist in Israel or anywhere else. There is no mention of this in his text The State of the Jews, nor in Old-New Land. Neither does the original Zionist conference of 1897, the Basel Program, nor the Balfour Declaration of 1917, nor the Mandate for Palestine of 1922 nor even the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 cite the explicit right of a Jewish state to exist. Not once.
Furthermore, what other state on this Earth has a right to exist? Do not the people who constitute democratic governments ultimately grant those governments legitimacy? States have no rights. People do. The only text that promises the Jewish people the land of Palestine is the Bible, and if that is now a legitimate political text then please excuse me while I slam my head against the nearest wall.
Steven, please do not take this the wrong way. I am anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic, and I am as much anti-Israel as I am anti-Palestine. While I was writing an article for this paper last week, I had a conversation with a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. His name is Nadim Houssain. He said some things that gave me a new perspective on this conflict; a conflict in which I have no personal stake other than the fact that I am a human being and wherever there are human beings suffering — as there are in Palestine — I suffer as well. He told me that he believes in a one-state solution. One secular state to govern the people of Palestine, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian. One democratic government in which all peoples are represented and the rights of all are upheld.
While I do not believe that Israelis have a right to a Jewish state, they have a right to live where they want to and to be near their holy land. The Palestinians have that same right, though. And let us not forget that it is they who were colonized in the first place.