The Israeli Refusenik Soldiers and the Antiwar Movement
By Carole Seligman
A full-page ad in support of the Israeli soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza appeared in the March 22 issue of the New York Times. The ad is an unusual combination of sharp criticism of the terror tactics employed by the Israeli military while at the same time it is a pro-Israel statement. Unfortunately, the parts of the ad which support the state of Israel undermine the effectiveness of the critique.
On the one hand, the ad, whose aim appears to be the building of the Tikkun Community as the progressive pro-Israel alternative to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committeethe Israel Lobby), calls Israels brutal policies in the West Bank and Gaza immoral and identifies these policies as: violations of human rights, practicing torture, destroying homes, perpetrating violence against civiliansall acts that have become necessary to maintain an oppressive Occupation.
On the other hand, the ad tries to appear even-handed in its condemnation of both Israeli and Palestinian violence. First, it calls the situation in Palestine a cycle of violence, a description that equates Palestinian violence employed in the struggle against oppression with Israeli violence directed against a displaced and oppressed civilian population. In the text of the ad appear these words: Both sides continue to make self-destructive and immoral choices, and both sides bear responsibility for the tragedy that has unfolded in Israel/Palestine.
Second, the critique of the Occupation is limited to Israels role in the region since 1967 and refers only to the West Bank and Gaza. Israel as a whole, as established in 1948, is not subject to the criticism of either the refusnik soldiers or the signers of the NYT ad. But Israel as a Jewish theocratic state was established by brutal terror against the indigenous Palestinians in which many were killed and nearly one million were forced from their homes and lands. This history cannot be separated from Israels subsequent development. In fact the current brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the growth of the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and the escalating Israeli military repression against the Palestinian civilian population can only be understood in the framework of the Zionist settler project that the state of Israel represents.
The real purpose of the Israeli state, planted in the middle of the Arab world and receiving more foreign aid per capita from the United States than any other country in the world, is not to provide a safe refuge for the Jewish survivors of the Nazi holocaust. The real purpose is to provide a safe haven and a base for American exploitation of the rich oil resources of the Arab regions.
American support for the Israeli theocratic state is part of the same policy that targets Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Afghanistan because of their proximity to oil or to the routes for transporting oil between its sources and the United States. Like the repressive theocratic Saudi Arabian regime, Israel, serves as a bulwark against the irrepressible struggle of the Arab peoples to control their own lands and resources. The region as a whole is considered strategically vital to the capitalist system in the United States. The divide and conquer strategy employed against the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia by the United States and its other imperialist partners, especially Britain, has reached new heights in Israel. There, the perpetrators of the Israeli apartheid system claim the moral authority of victimhood from the European Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazis. But there is no law in history that says: Once victimized, never an oppressor be!
U.S. history is the prime example of former members of victimized immigrant groups becoming oppressors of new immigrants, Africans, and indigenous peoples of the Americas. So it shouldnt be so surprising that even though it is horrifying to many Jews who identify with and solidarize with the Palestinian peoples, the state established by Nazi Holocaust victims has become the Nazi-like, apartheid state of oppression against the indigenous Palestinian peoples.
But it could not have been otherwise.
The establishment of a Jewish state in the middle of Arab lands occupied by Arab peoples for millennia never could have provided redress for the grievances of the Jewish survivors of World War II. Never could their grievances have been redressed by stealing another oppressed peoples land and by creating a Jewish clerical state, which by definition granted citizenship to Jews from anywhere else in the world, but excluded the indigenous peoples of Palestine!
The whole idea of facts on the ground, a statement used by Zionists to describe the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza which displace Palestinians, use all the arable land and water, and force Palestinians to be unable to travel freely even within their own land, describes the whole project of Zionism itself. Imperialism established Israel only by getting rid of the Palestinians who already lived there and turning them into refugees, uprooting their olive trees, and making life miserable for them. The fact is that in 1948, the state of Israel, was established by brute terrorism.
Terror tactics part of the imperialist arsenal
Just as the American war against the Vietnamese people was a war of terrorism, and the war of the contras against the Nicaraguan peoples was a war of terrorism, so is the war of Israel against Palestine a war of terrorism. Terror tactics are an established part of the arsenal of imperialism to be used or condemned depending on the needs of the ruling class. The current War on Terrorism by the Bush administration conveniently ignores the many instances of terrorism that benefited the U.S. capitalist class as long as the American people believe the lies poured out of the corporate-owned media, acting as official spokespersons for the ruling class. And the desperate acts of the World Trade Center suicide-bombers make the imperialists work easier because they instill great fear and a sense of powerlessness in the working people who must struggle to control their own destiny.
The American antiwar movement can do a better job of supporting the Israeli refusnik soldiers than Michael Lerner and Cornell West have done with their New York Times ad. First, we can tell the truth about the billions in American tax dollars that are supporting the state of Israelmaking Israels hugely destructive and deadly war on the Palestinian people possible.
Americans need to support a movement to combat this so-called War on Terrorism. A movement that includes the demand: No U.S. Aid to Israel! This is an integral part of the current struggle against war which includes the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, the sending of weapons and troops to Colombia and the Philippines, the escalating threats and ongoing sanctions on Iraq, the nuclear war preparations aimed at North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, and the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Missile Defense System and all U.S. weapons of mass destruction. The antiwar movement has its work cut out for it!