Friday, January 02, 2004

Tired of the anti-Semitic Label

In a Reader's Forum article on Dec 21st in the Tulsa World Perry Simons and Robert Cohen of the Jewish Federation of Tulsa attack the Rev. Naim Ateek, the retired canon of St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem for recent talks in Tulsa in which he gave some supportive remarks about the Palestinian people. Simons and Cohen took issue with Rev. Ateek's reported statement that he could understand the Palestinians frustration:

"Ateek doesn't understand American democracy. He claimed that America's support for Israel is because of a "large and powerful Jewish population," but such claims are now recognized simply as anti-Semitism. That's bigoted stereotyping."

I hate to break it to Simons and Cohen, but beating people who don't agree with them over the head with the nuclear anti-Semitism label is old and bound to backfire. Those of us who have legitimate complaints about Israel's policies and behavior get real tired of being charged as anti-Semites. More and more Americans who are uncomfortable with our one-sided approach to the Israel/Palestine issues are speaking their minds. The irritating refusal of pro-Israel groups to listen is bound to backfire on them as people in the middle get fed up with their obstinacy and overuse of the anti-Semite label as a means of cutting off debate.

To deny that the US politician's lop-sided support of Israel is largely attributal to a large and powerful Jewish population is a blind refusal to acknowledge reality. If Simons and Cohen can't see this reality then how can anything else they say be believed? Granted, much of the "Israel-Right or Wrong" crowd is made up of fundamentalist Christians that believe that Biblical prophecies about the restoration of Israel are coming true and must be supported - even if the means are unjust. So, to be honest, our politicians (and especially Bush) are unapologetically pro-Israel because of a large and powerful Jewish and fundamentalist Christian population in this country.

Others, including thinking Jews and Christians, think we owe the Israelis and the Palestinians (and the USA) a more objective and even-handed approach to solving the conflict. Our lop-sided support of Israel guarantees no solution will be found AND causes the US problems far beyond this one serious issue.

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