Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wise words for savage times

By now the news that the Israeli government has deployed ground troops in Gaza is no longer news. I'm in the midst of an interterm course so, I miss out on so much as an opportunity to comment much until fairly late. So it goes. The scene has already been ugly there, and is only getting nastier. The Israeli government's treatment of the indigenous peoples of Palestine is one that has angered me for some time, much as South Africa's Apartheid regime angered me a couple decades ago, and for the same basic reasons (and don't get me started on the heretofore unaddressed American Holocaust that in many ways is still ongoing).

In such times, we would do well to heed the words of Professor As'ad AbulKhalid, who runs The Angry Arab, from On Hate (first the new preface, and then the original):
I had written this post on hate back in the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. I still believe in it of course. Political anger and rejection of Zionist colonization of Palestine is acceptable and imperative, but not hate--not on racial, religious, or ethnic grounds. And readers in the Arab world who may be subjected to anti-Semitic trash from the official state (or fanatic religious) media should know that there are American Jews I know who care more about the Palestinians than many Arabs. The enemy is Israel and Zionism--and Arab Zionists (Arab regimes and Dahlans) are as deadly as Israeli Zionists.


On Hate. I was thinking about us Arabs who are watching a savage Israeli war on Lebanon on live TV. I have been thinking about hate. Just yesterday, I read a column by the confidante of Rafiq Hariri (that corrupt politician who put the foundations of the construction not of Lebanon but of the Israeli/American/Saudi conspiracy in Lebanon), Faysal Salman, writing in As-Safir. And the column was a very vicious anti-Jewish babble. I really think that we should avoid the pressures to succumb to hate. I always cite Richard Nixon when he gave that rambling address at the White House before leaving after his resignation. He said, I am paraphrasing: Your enemies don't win, until you hate them. And when you do, you destroy yourself. Hate is not a constructive energy, not politically and certainly not personally. I am not here preaching a message of Christian or hippie "love." Political anger is justified but that has to be articulated in a rational and humane manner. We can't, or shouldn't, allow Israel and its crimes to make us worse as human beings, especially when we criticize the Zionist project on humanitarian grounds. Go back to sleep.
Chris Floyd riffs on that essay and adds:
These are wise words. One sees many angry comments directed at "The Jews" for what is happening in Gaza. But The Jews are not bombing anyone in Gaza; the Israeli government is. That does not make every Jew in the world somehow complicit in these war crimes. Or should every American be placed in the dock at The Hague with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other perpetrators of the even larger and more savage war crime carried out in Iraq [not to mention the torture regime and other evils]? To rail against The Jews en masse for the actions of some Jews is as pig-ignorant as, say, condemning every person with black skin for the crimes of one ghetto gang, or every Muslim for the act of a single extremist group, or indeed, condemning every white person for the crimes of the Gangster-in-Chief, George Bush.

The structures of power make these crimes possible -- structures inhabited [and supported] at all times by specific human beings, individuals responsible for their actions, operating of their own free will. [For much more on this theme, see the excellent new essay by Arthur Silber here.] They are not possessed by some kind of racial or ethnic ectoplasm or in-built evil that directs their activities. All structures of power must be monitored with fierce diligence, and denounced and opposed when the individuals directing the particular structure commit evil acts. This applies across the board, in all societies, all ideologies, all countries, all historical eras. AbuKhalil's words are worth repeating: "Political anger is justified but that has to be articulated in a rational and humane manner. We can't, or shouldn't, allow Israel and its crimes to make us worse as human beings."
Words to live by.

Update: see Top 5 Lies About Israel's Assault on Gaza (h/t Mickey Z).

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