Friday, March 24, 2006

Rachel Corrie and the inability to speak...

Was reading the Speculator today. He had a fantastic piece on the Rachel Corrie play being canceled in New York. It's a facinating piece and Patrick, as always, makes some poignant remarks concerning the issue of art vis-a-vis its place in commenting on hot button, politically divisive issues.

Where do I stand on the issue? I think it's pretty clear. The fact of the matter is that there is a slight difference between the Corrie play and the Mohamed cartoons. I don't really see this as an issue of self-censorship, I see this as an issue of refusing, still, to have any rational debate in this country concerning what is happening in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. These are very emmotional issues, prone to rampant hyperbole, bigoted statements, absolute positions and little, if any, discourse. Particularly in the United States. In fact, most especially in the United States.

Most Israeli's came to a realization many, many years ago. They were going to have to eventually interact and live side by side with the Palestinians. In turn, most Palestinians have come to that very same conclusion. So what gives? Why is there no real debate on the topic in the United States, the most powerfull force in the Middle East peace process?

It's a good question, and is one that is symbolized by the following letter: A I P A C. AIPAC. Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government just released the following study. It's long, but definitely worth reading if anyone wants to thoroughly disect the interplay between discourse concerning Israel in the United States and AIPAC. It stands to note that they take great pains to point out that this is not some "Protocal of Zion" type piece, but is an actual discussion concerning lobby, in a manner similar to how one would discuss the power wielded by the NRA, AARP, etc. This is not to say that the use of a powerful lobby is wrong, it really isn't. In fact, most any special interest group wishes it played the game in much the same manner. But the question becomes, what is the end result of this alliance? Furthermore, what happens to debate when one is immediately accused of being an anti-Semite as soon as he mentions the existance of an Israeli lobby.

As is mentioned in the Harvard report:

No discussion of how the Lobby operates would be complete without examining one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of antiSemitism. Anyone who criticizes Israeli actions or says that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over U.S. Middle East policy-an influence that AIPAC celebrates—stands a good chance of getting labeled an anti-Semite. In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism, even though the Israeli media themselves refer to America’s "Jewish Lobby." In effect, the Lobby boasts of its own power and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. This tactic is very effective, because anti-Semitism is loathsome and no responsible person wants to be accused of it.

Or as Cornel West puts it in Democracy Matters:

"those in the powerful Jewish lobby - though far from monolithic and certainly not an almighty cabal of Zionists who rule the United States or the world (in the vicious language of Zealous anti-Semites)- are far to the right of most American Jews and are often contemptuous of prophetic Jewish voices. In fact their preoccupation with with Israel's security at the expense of the Palestinian cry for justice has not only produced little security for Israel but also led many misinformed Jews down an imperial path that suffocates their own prophetic heritage.

Now, many of you know that I am a Westian, so when the Good Lord speaks to me about this stuff, well I listen. I find it interesting that people like Cornel West (one of the co-heads of Tikkun - along with Rabbi Michael Lerner and Susannah Heschel) felt the need to qualify his statements about the mere existance of the lobby by stating outright that he does not view it as this overarching "cabal". In fact, Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard both state the same thing in their Kennedy School piece by stating:

The Lobby’s activities are not the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For the most part, the individuals and groups that comprise the Lobby are doing what other special interest groups do, just much better. Moreover, pro-Arab interest groups are weak to non-existent, which makes the Lobby’s task even easier.

This is clearly to attempt to head off the inevitable. Which is, the charges of anti-Semitism that will come crashing down upon them for having the balls to question an Isreali policy.

It's akin to every American anti-war activist having to qualify each and every statement concerning the war by starting off with "I support the Troops and don't want any more to die, but" and then stating their rationale for why the Bush administration lied and forced us into the war. It's a joke.

Anyway, I think I strayed mildly off topic there...what were talking about? March Madness? Anyway, let me know what you think...


At 7:18 PM, Blogger patrick dubya said...

I wonder if you've read "Imperial Hubris," by "Anonymous," later outed as Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's "Bin Laden Group." Scheuer has a lot to say about the lack of a national dialogue regarding our relationship with Israel, and the ever-potent deterrant power that the prospect of an anti-semitism charge still wields. Scheuer is honest in his assesment that "our closest ally" recieves the lion's share of benefit from the relationship. He questions the wisdom of allowing a tiny nation that openly and proudly declares itself a home for one religious/ethnic group to have such a strong hand in the decision-making process of the world's only superpower, a massive nation of 260 million that prides itself on its diversity of races, religions and ethnicities. I recall that he refers to America as a lumbering Gulliver, lashed to the Lilleputian state of Israel. Now, all this seems to make perfect sense to me, but then I find that oftentimes things that are actually racist and short-sighted seem logical at first blush. Have you read the book? I would be interested in what you or any other informed party has to say about these assertions. What about Israel's role as the only democracy in the Middle East? How significant is that?

At 11:17 AM, Blogger idowhatiwant said...

the study is compelling. anyone who reads it should read this response:

the critic, david bernstein is a blogger over at, and an insanely staunch supporter of israel. i would take unbiased advice from him about israeli relations like i would stab myself in the throat. in any event, he has some interesting commentary on the harvard study.


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