I’ve had a more diffuse and sometimes different reaction to the original article on this topic “Palestine, Israel, and America: The Strategic Void” than I anticipated, although one I thought possible.
And while I don’t usually respond other than with brief replies to individual comments, I thought it useful at this point to address certain issues, both to encourage some to re-read (or at least read through) the initial article, and to “clear the conceptual decks” before the second and third parts of the trilogy appear.
Disbelief and Denial
One thing that appears in a number of comments and private emails to me is a pattern of disbelief and denial. That is, if someone read through to the last section (“Doing Better”), they understood generally where I was going and why I started the way I did. But many didn’t get past the introduction, and did not like it at all — although if they decided to take another look, based on what I had written before, they generally read through to the end.
Responses to the next two pieces may well be better, because they won’t be a critique of the anti-Zionist movement and people in America and elsewhere, and defensiveness won’t generally be a problem. But if people don’t accept the premises and the critique in the first installment, that won’t matter in a practical way.
Look at it this way. To Israel and its supporters, there are three essential benchmarks of their status and success: (1) their military power, (2) the number of settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and (3) the extent and durability of their control (or leverage) over the US Government. All else is detail.
Now, no matter what anyone thinks of justice for the Palestinians or the efforts to date to help them, or actions to counter Zionist activity in Palestine and Washington, or anything else along these lines, just look hard at those benchmarks and ask yourselves if any single one has been weakened even slightly by our efforts over the years. The answer is no, without any qualification whatsoever.
Compared to even five years ago, Israeli military power is significantly greater, there are significantly more settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the 29-ovation response of the US Congress to Netanyahu’s diatribe coupled with Obama’s reaffirmation of eternal US support for Israel speak for themselves.
Since what we have been doing is manifestly inadequate and unsuccessful, even if it makes some people feel good as they give press conferences and jet around the world organizing things, we need to wipe the slate clean and start over with something different that might do better. I tell you this: absent some incidental successes with the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) campaign, it is hard to see how we could do worse by trying a different approach.
I think it might help people reading my work to understand that I am a pragmatist and not an ideologue in a political, philosophical or theological sense. I want to win and I want to do things that work, whatever their origins – monarchist, Marxist, or whatever. This is not an affirmation of “the end justifies the means,” because that can all too often be used to excuse the inexcusable.
For instance (to upset a lot of Americans and British), had I been in some “Supreme Command” during WWII and been approached by Air Marshal Harris (RAF Bomber Command) and General LeMay (his US counterpart) with a plan to break the morale of the German Army by killing their families in burning cities behind them, I would have had both of them put against a wall and shot. The concept was unbelievably savage – and if one wants a pragmatic reason for rejecting such things, they also don’t (and in this case, didn’t) work. So I guess while I am a pragmatist, it is within definite ethical limits.
Further, several people pointed out that I was way too cavalier in pointing people to focus on local areas, because Zionist influence was significant there, too. And I concede that I did not carefully define my terms, so I will make an extra effort to do so in the future.
But this is one of those areas where both I and the others were and are correct. Within the US, in many large metropolitan areas (e.g., Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles) and many prominent university towns (e.g., Berkeley, CA and Ann Arbor, MI) the Jewish population is several times the national average and the Zionist influence correspondingly more significant. But in many smaller cities (e.g., Lansing, MI and Jackson, MS – both state capitals) and almost all smaller towns everywhere, that is not the case. So I’d modify my initial suggestion to recommend side-stepping the former category – why do an uphill fight if it isn’t necessary? – and concentrating on places in the second category.
Israel and Palestine
Finally, it should be understood that I am not and have never been in the camp of those who say “I am not anti-Israel, I am pro-Palestinian.” I am the opposite: I am not pro-Palestinian, I am anti-Israel. I am not pro-Palestinian, because while their suffering is and has been very real, that of many others out there was or is much worse (one need think for openers of Somalia and Darfur and Chechnya and Zimbabwe and Rawanda, for instance, in different ways). More importantly, their “leadership”
“The Lord helps those who helps themselves,” a saying in Protestant Christianity goes, and I am more than willing to fight with and for people who fight as well as they can with what they have (which is why, not discounting the above, I do incline slightly toward Hamas and not Fatah), but I am NOT willing to pick up a load for those who mostly throw their hands in the air and cry “pity me, help me.” The fact that the Arab states, one and all, have squandered many opportunities to use their wealth to leverage their own international positions (and that of the Palestinians), preferring to spend it on luxuries and infrastructure while the Israelis took a more pragmatic view of their priorities, just underscores that point. That the Arab states are largely a collection of quasi-medieval monarchies (albeit with a modernizing element) and secular dictatorships doesn’t help.
And I am anti-Israel, but not because it is or wants to be a Jewish state, or because of what it does to the Palestinians and its neighbors. Race, ethnicity and religion are utterly irrelevant to me, in both personal and professional terms. Moreover, show me a country that never in its history oppressed an internal minority (ethnic, religious, whatever) or beat up on a weaker neighbor, and I’ll show you a country without an internal minority or any weaker neighbors — maybe Fiji and Monaco? I am anti-Israel because of what it has done to the US in the furtherance of its own goals (the USS Liberty incident and 9/11 obviously stand out), and because of the leverage it has acquired over the US Government and its policies through the machinations of the domestic Jewish community here.
But I tell you this: if Ireland or Italy or India had done similar things to the US, and leveraged the US Government through the indigenous Irish or Italian or Indian communities here, and Israel had not done the same thing, then I would be anti-Ireland or anti-Italy or anti-India as I am now anti-Israel. None of them have done that, but you understand that the only thing I am “pro-” is “pro-American,” and I oppose those who harm — or try to harm — me and my people and my country. And if that includes lifetime politicians who have sold out to a foreign lobby, then I’d put them on the political chopping-block just as I would the country that did the bribing and blackmailing.
And so it stands. If you have reached this point, watch for the second and third parts of the trilogy, due out on June 27 (Demystifying 9/11: Israel and the Tactics of Mistake) and July 4 (tentatively Riposte Against Zionism: A Plan of Action), the latter focusing on the US but easily adaptable to other countries and cultures. Just stay tuned and keep an open mind.
*Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, University of Michigan) is a ten-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at [email protected]