Friday, September 18, 2009

My Struggles with Semitism

Hal Pepinsky
September 18, 2009

As luck would have it the end of Ramadan and the Jewish new year coincide this weekend, just as US special envoy George Mitchell flies home with nothing to show for shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.
Let’s be honest among ourselves folks: There is nothing for leading Israeli politicians to negotiate. Israel emerged, let alone survived as a Jewish state only by brute force against local gentile residents (Palestinians were half Christian in 1948) and the indigenous residents’ local kinfolk. We Anglo Americans especially ought to recognize what it takes to overwhelm residents of color from sea to shining sea. The sad part is that those who survive political battle to qualify as leaders, including President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, have limited options, notably to resist their governments’ military expansion, except as it gets deflated, as in Vietnam for the US, and increasingly heated, as from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. When bald aggression and occupation has reached its limits, as in Iraq, Afghanistan and what’s left of Palestine, there’s nothing left to do but to cling to military aggression as long as politically possible.
Sorry, President Obama, but however well intended, notice that your peace mission (an oxymoron in itself) to the Middle East was doomed to failure from the start. Long before you came to office, it was clear that the idea of US clout over Israel is a fiction. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US government will never vote for any sanctions of any kind against Israel. Nor will we limit our country’s arms and economic support for the Israeli government. If I were in the Israeli government, I would be convinced that the US government and Palestinian Authority are ultimately wimps, and perhaps be persuaded as one might be by the idea of US Manifest Destiny to accept a Biblical prophecy about how Judea and Sumeria would be owned by Jews once again.
I’d say it’s a good bet that Israel will pretty much colonize the West Bank and Gaza, and that if peace gets worked out, it will entail a massive exodus of Palestinians from there and from refugee camps into everyday life across the Middle East. It’s not fair, but I think the process is irreversible. I hope bloodshed abates rather than spikes along the way.
Anti-Semitism has affected me personally. My mother and I lived for half a year with grandparents before my father could find university housing up north in 1945. He took the job up north because his faculty appointment at a southern university was turned down by the regents; he would have been the first Jew on the university faculty. My parents were married in my mother’s hometown, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1943. My dad was too nearsighted to join the army, and so I was conceived a war baby in Minneapolis. I am a Confederate White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Yankee Russian Jew married to someone who received first communion as a Catholic in post-war Warsaw, whom Jewish women I dated in college told that I would be an unacceptable mate to her family because I am gentile. I recall my mother saying around the time of the creation of the Israeli state that a religiously based state was an anachronism. My parents had no organized religious affiliation. My mother assured me that Christmas was a pagan holiday. That confused background may explain my reaction to the present situation in the so-called Holy Land.
From my experience in mediation, I’d say it is time for George Mitchell and other would-be mediators to get unstuck from a debating point, in this case on how to implement the Oslo Accords. Let’s get real. Israelis have the military ascendancy, due in substantial part to US military armament. Brute force will win tactically, as on the point of whether Palestinians deserve a state of their own (a mixed blessing as I can attest) or a right of return. Those are lost causes; there’s no use in kidding ourselves otherwise. This raises larger issues for all of us.
For one thing, suppose we in the US start privately at least by recognizing that the USG voted to create the state of Israel in part because my Anglo-American kin didn’t want Jewish refugees flooding our country. That’s our issue. We have contributed to displacement from Gaza to Kashmir to Guantanamo and Bagram. If we in the US want moral authority, we ought to pitch in to help clean up the social mess by inviting “the tempest tossed” to our own shores.
Then we have a little more moral authority to call on other Arab States to assume more responsibility themselves for absorbing Palestinian refugees.
Who knows? Maybe George Mitchell is quietly working at this level too. Hope so. It’s the way to ride the current wave of change in the Middle East, I think. Love and peace--hal

1 comment:

  1. I respond to a post on the humanist sociology listserv (see his post below)

    Thanks for responding Olaf. Interesting turn of phrase. I don't happen to think dogs should be treated like dogs, and I'd go a step further than you: Palestinians since partition have been treated much worse than most dogs I encounter, except perhaps abandoned dogs. I'll stipulate that. I gather that even if Palestinians are allowed refuge at all, as in Lebanon and Syria, they are similarly mistreated by Arabs (similarly to Syrian encampments from Iraqi refugees, including even those who happen to have lived on the wrong side of a Sunni/Shia divide. Among those who could relieve the plight of displaced and effectively imprisoned Palestinians, who among any of us qualified to pass judgment on others for not doing enough. In my scheme of things, peacemaking begins when exhorting others to fix our problems is replaced by the issue of what we ourselves should do next. I think US authorities would contribute to peace by acknowledging that they have no leverage in the situation, and invited for instance the UN Secretary General to take a role as lead Middle East mediator instead. Our hands are too dirty. Notice in my post I include my own hands as in part an Anglo-American who ancestors fought and died to defend slavery. What say? love and peace--hal

    Subject: Ahs-talk Digest, Vol 7, Issue 39

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    Today's Topics:

    1. today's post, re my struggles with
    semitism (Pepinsky, Harold E.)
    2. Re: today's post, re my struggles with
    semitism (Olaf Krassnitzky)


    Message: 2
    Date: Sat, 19 Sep 2009 07:59:41 -0400
    From: "Olaf Krassnitzky"
    Subject: Re: [Ahs-talk] today's post, re my
    struggles with semitism
    To: "'Discussion group for the Association for Humanist Sociology'"

    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"


    Sounds like the Moshe Dayan doctrine for the Palaestinians: You shall live
    like dogs (current), or you can leave (your solution).It sounds realistic
    from a US perspective that looks at the issue as a local problem. But how
    realistic is it? It has become a global problem. Israel may have brute
    force. But Islam has oil and money and a potent ideology. I mean the Islamic
    states could have solved the Palaestinian problem decades ago. I have seen
    no indication whatsoever that they would be willing to do so now. Palaestine
    will remain a big chip in the global power roulette. The outcome for
    Paleastinians may be clear perhaps generations down the road, and be an
    extension of whatever global balances of power will arise between Islam,
    China, US/Europe, with Russia probably playing on the Islam/China courts.
    Then there will be a call for something stronger than the UN. I just do not
    think there can or will be a local Palaestine solution of any kind,
    including a Palaestinian exodus.
    >From all I can scratch up in my genealogy, I have an Eastern Jewish name,
    two German Jewish grandmothers (Hertzer and Brettschneider) who were no
    longer of the Jewish faith. Everybody in my family tree stopped being Jewish
    quite a while ago. Nobody is complaining.I am sure there are millions like
    us in Europe and elsewhere.