America, Israel, and the “Arab-Israeli Conflict”

I’m going to share a bit of history with you. It’s always good to go back and take a look at what was, in order to better understand what is…

The first president of the United States, George Washington, gave a cautionary message in his Farewell Address to the Union that a host of succeeding presidents have assiduously chosen to ignore: “A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils, because it leads to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others; which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concession, both by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.

“It gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) the facility to betray or sacrifice the interest of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odius, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.” (How prophetic these words are, two centuries later)

A few facts on the history of Israel, and US-Israeli relationship:

  1. Between 1918-1948, Britain helped 550,000 Jews, primarily from Europe, move into Palestine. In 1948, leaders of the Jewish minority declared independence; more than three quarters of a million Palestinians were chased from their homes. Palestinians were able to nominally retain East Jerusalem, and hold on to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Displaced Palestinians were barred from returning to their homes, and wound up in squalid refugee camps.
  2. In 1967, Israel occupied the rest of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). It was also in the aftermath of the 1967 war that Israel immediately annexed East Jerusalem, and declared the whole of Jerusalem its, “eternal capitol.” Annexing territory taken by force is illegal under international law. Neither Berlin [Germany] nor Tokyo [Japan] were annexed at the end of World War II. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2253, of July 1967, declared the annexation of East Jerusalem invalid.
  3. The Geneva Convention of 1949, Article 49 (paragraph 6) states: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” To date, Israel has transferred well over 140,000 jews into settlements throughout the so-called “occupied territories.” The Israeli govt. uses tax breaks and other incentives in order to manufacture “settlers” for the territories. Settlements are 100% segregated communities, for Jews only! Built with taxes from a country where discrimination in housing is illegal! As settlements are built, Palestinian homes are demolished.
  4. Article 53 of the Geneva Accords states: “Any destruction by the occupying power of the real or personal property is prohibited.”
  5. Article 27 of the Geneva Accords states: “Persons under control of an occupying power shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected, especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof.”
  6. The UN Human Rights Commission declared that “Israel’s grave breach of the Geneva Convention, relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war, are war crimes and an affront against humanity.”
  7. Since 1967 Israel has been the single largest recipient of US foreign aid; while US Foreign Aid Law prohibits military and economic aid to any country that engages in a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” – Sections 502[b], 116[a] of the Foreign Assistance Act.
  8. U.S. aid to Israel, to date, is well over $77 billion taxpayer dollars; Five and a half billion in grants and loans in 1996 alone (In 1996 Israel received seven times the U.S. aid as all of black Africa; six times as much as the US spent on famine relief for the entire planet); $15 million per day; $628,000 per hour. In 1996 cuts in programs for America’s poor were $5.7 billion; aid to Israel $5.5 billion. From the mouths of the poor in America to the necks of the indigenous people of Palestine!

Why I feel as strongly as I do.

Aside from the Islamic injunctions from the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet, which enable me to empathize, as a Muslim – I also feel a strong and very natural affinity with Arabs as an African American; especially with Palestinian Arabs. And this is something that was long ago recognized by the political intelligencia of America.

A portion of a formerly classified National Security Council Memorandum, dated March 17, 1978, and drafted under [then] National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brezinski read: “…We must envisage the possibility, however remote, that black Americans interested in African Affairs may refocus their attention on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Taking into account the African descent of American blacks, it is reasonable to anticipate their sympathies would lie with the Arabs who are closer to them in spirit and, in some cases, related to them by blood. Black involvement in lobbying to support the Arabs may lead to serious dissension between American blacks and Jews…”

This is an interesting and relevant observation; however, in my opinion, it misses the mark. The connection I feel with Palestinians results from our shared socio-political experiences – as exemplified in the memorable words of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Being a negro in America is not a comfortable experience. It means being part of the company of the bruised, the battered, the scarred, and the defeated. Being a negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and then being hated for being an orphan. Being a negro in America means listening to suburban politicians talk eloquently against open housing while arguing in the same breath that they are not racists. It means being harried by day and haunted by night by a nagging sense of nobodiness and constantly fighting to be saved from the poison of bitterness. It means the ache and anguish of living in so many situations where hopes unborn have died.”

One could easily transpose “being negro in America” with being Palestinian in occupied Palestine, or being Palestinian (that certain type of Arab) in all of the mideast. And then there is another observation of Dr. King’s, easily interchangable between black Americans and Palestinians. This next quotation is all the more potent when viewed thru the shattered dreams, the poisoned expectations, and the repeated betrayals in peace process after so-called peace process::

“For years now we have heard the word ‘Wait.’ It rings in the ear of every negro with piercing familiarity. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will, and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”.

The Palestinian experience has been:

  • collective punishment
  • economic strangulation and acute poverty
  • home demolitions
  • school closures
  • torture (both physical and psychological)
  • a large segment of the population permanently disabled by the Israeli army
  • mass arrests and detentions without trial
  • indiscriminate killings by the military and settlers

All daily occurrences in occupied Palestine!

On The Clinton Administration

Doug Bloomfield is a Washington consultant and nationally syndicated columnist. He is also the president of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Council. The following are excerpts from a commentary he wrote in the 9/3/98 edition of the Washington Jewish Week:

“Like most Americans, the Jewish community has mixed feelings about Bill Clinton. However, Jews are staying with Bill Clinton because they like where he stands on the isues important to most of them, not because they approve of his behavior.

‘Clinton’s appeal to Jewish voters – who gave him 80% support in two elections – is rooted in both Israel and domestic issues.”

“Most agree he may be the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.”

“No president has visited there [Israel] as often or demonstrated his level of compassion and support.”

“It doesn’t hurt when Clinton last month ordered the bombing of a terrorist organization whose very name declares its desire to kill Jews.”

“He has appointed more Jews to the Supreme Court, the Cabinet and other high offices than any president.”

“On domestic issues of concern to most Jewish voters, he has been in synch on church-state separation, civil liberties, minority rights, race relations, education, health, the environment, abortion and sexual preference.”

Quoting a “longtime Jewish friend,” of Clinton, Bloomfield said: “The Jews will be with Bill Clinton til the last dog dies. We’ll be loyal to him because he’s been loyal to us.”

Can Muslims in America (or anywhere else) make a similar claim?- E-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan