Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why Do They Single Out Israel?

"How come you single out Israel for its faults, but never criticize other governments for doing things just as bad?" This is what apologists for the Israeli government say to those, like myself, who criticize it. Their not-so-subtle implication is that critics of the Israeli government are really just motivated by antisemitism and therefore their views should not be given credence.

Since I do indeed focus more on Israel's faults than the faults of other countries, it is only fitting and proper that I should explain why. Here is why.

To start with, I admit that the Israeli government is certainly not the only government that does terrible things to innocent people, using lies to justify the unjustifiable. Nor do I claim that Israel's government is worse than others in this respect. Virtually all governments oppress their own people so that inordinate power and privileges are enjoyed by a ruling elite. The Chinese government is no exception. Neither is the Iranian government. Additionally the Russian government oppresses the Chechen people; the Saudi government is particularly oppressive of Saudi women; and the U.S. government kills innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq, not to mention millions whom it killed earlier in Vietnam and elsewhere. Lots of governments commit terrible crimes. Who can quantify the wrongness of these crimes and say "this one is the worst" and "this one is not as bad"?

Before I explain why I focus on it so much, let us at least agree about what the Israeli government is doing, whether or not it is the worst crime being committed by any government in the world today. The Israeli government is carrying out brutal and violent ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, which is a terrible thing. Millions of Palestinians are refugees--living in refugee camps in places like the Gaza Strip section of Palestine, and in other countries such as Lebanon. They lost all of the property they once owned and are refugees from their own country of Palestine--the place where they were born, or would have been born had not the Zionist military forces (that became the Israeli military in 1948) violently driven their parents, or grandparents in some cases now, out of their villages throughout the 78% of Palestine that is now called "Israel" in 1947 and 1948 and again later in1967. Israel continues this ethnic cleansing today by denying the refugees their right of return and by making life as unpleasant as possible for Palestinians (for example massacring civilians in Gaza last December/January) in an effort to make them depart from all of Palestine "voluntarily." Israel does not let these refugees return to their country for only one reason--they are not Jewish.

But why focus on Israel? Why focus on this crime above all others?

I do it for three reasons.

#1. As an American I have a duty to focus on my own government's mis-deeds more than on other government's mis-deeds ("the log in my own eye, as opposed to the mote in my neighbor's eye," as a wise man once put it), and my focus on Israel is actually a focus on the wrongness of my own government's over-the-top and virtually unconditional support for the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing. It is my government, not I, who has singled out Israel from all other countries to receive military, diplomatic (all those UN vetos!) and economic (no-strings-attached loans!) aid far surpassing that given to any other nation.

#2. Also as an American, I want to expose the Big Lie that the American ruling class uses to control ordinary Americans. The Big Lie is a) that there are lots of evil people who commit terrorist violence against us and against Israelis simply out of an irrational hatred of freedom and an antisemitic hatred of Jews and of anybody who defends Jews from such hateful violence, b) that our government is waging a War on Terror to defend good people against these evil people, and c) that we must obey our leaders during this war and surrender basic freedoms we once held dear in order to win it.

Exposing this Big Lie requires focusing on Israel because one of the main reasons Americans believe the Big Lie is that they see so many news reports about Palestinians violently attacking Israel and they do not understand the true reason why Palestinians do this. Our corporate-controlled mass media never explain that Israel, as a Jewish state that uses ethnic cleansing to ensure it has at least an 80% Jewish population, oppresses Palestinians because they are not Jewish. Nor does the media explain that Israel defines itself as a state of the Jewish people and not a state of all its citizens, that it enacts laws that discriminate against non-Jews, and that Palestinian anger at this is not hateful antisemitism but simply anger at being ethnically cleansed from their own country. By portraying the justified anger of Palestinians (and of all the Arabs and Muslims who share it) as unjustified irrational antisemitic and "anti-freedom" hatred, our rulers try to persuade us that the War on Terror is a real war against a real enemy when in fact it is an Orwellian war of social control. To expose this lie one must "focus on Israel" to explain the truth about Palestinian (and Arab and Muslim) anger at the U.S. and Israeli governments.

(One must also focus on Israel in order to have a serious discussion of the wrongness of terrorism (violence targeted against non-combatants) whether it is carried out in the name of Zionism or in the name of "resistance to Zionism." I discuss this topic here and here and here and here and here.)

#3. Even were I not an American, however, and even if the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing were not being used by the American ruling class to force Palestinians into a conflict with the Israeli government that enables our mass media to portray them as a "bogeyman" hateful terrorist enemy, there would remain one more reason to focus on Israel, which is this.

The Israeli government's crime of ethnic cleansing is, in one important respect, worse than the crimes that other governments commit. When other governments oppress people they of course lie about their reasons, but they almost never equate opposition to such oppression with bigotry and in the rare cases when they do so this assertion is not taken seriously by most people in the world. When Americans opposed our government's invasion and bombing of Vietnam, nobody ever accused them of being bigots for it. When people oppose the Saudi government's oppression of women, nobody ever accuses them of being bigots for it. When people oppose the Chinese government's oppression of workers and peasants, nobody ever accuses them of being bigots for it.

But when people oppose the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the entire spectrum of political and corporate and academic leaders in the United States equate that righteous stand against oppression with antisemitism! People are labeled antisemites and thereby have their reputations smeared just for defending the 13th article of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." (It doesn't say "except Palestinians.") The Israeli government is the only one that commits its particular crime in the name of righteousness, in the name of fighting racism and bigotry. It carries out ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in the name of fighting antisemitism. And it uses organizations with righteous names like "Anti-Defamation League" to accuse anybody who opposes this crime of being an antisemite.

Think about it. When many crimes are being committed, but only one of those crimes is done under the cover of "fighting bigotry" and only one of the criminals dares to equate opposition to their crime with bigotry, then is it not reasonable to focus on that crime, even if it is in other respects not the worst one? The victims of the other crimes will get support from the many good people of the world who oppose injustice and oppression. But the victims of a crime carried out by a criminal who persuades the world of the lie that the crime is actually a battle against antisemitism will not receive the support they deserve. Good people of the world, to their great credit, detest antisemitism and will support the side they believe is fighting against it. This is precisely why it is so important that those who do understand what is actually happening, who do understand that the crime is a crime and not a righteous defense against antisemitism, focus on exposing the lie. This means focusing on the crimes of the Israeli government.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Revolution and the Uprising inThailand

Happy Easter. Easter is about the concept of "a rising," and in today's Boston Globe there is a report on the mass uprising in Thailand by "mainly poor, rural" people against the government. In their latest move, the people all wore red shirts and invaded the upscale shopping malls en masse, refusing to leave and saying if anybody was going to be arrested then all of them would be.

What really caught my attention was buried at the end of the article. A protest leader, Jatuporn Prompan, told the crowd, "Today's another day when commoners will declare war to bring democracy to the country." Earlier the previous day, "protesters swarmed around a Porsche, angrily smashing its windows after its driver bulldozed a line of motorcycles the group had parked."

I don't know very much about what's going on in Thailand, but I am quite certain that Jatuporn Prompan is absolutely right: the goal in Thailand (and the world) is to bring democracy to the country, and this means war--a war to defeat the powerful and privileged ruling elites. In other words, a revolution.

But how can an elite armed with a powerful and violent military force be defeated by people with few if any weapons? Again, what the Thai people are doing points the way. Below I have copied an article describing how the Thai people are creating an alliance with rank-and-file soldiers, in order to deprive the ruling elite of confidence that the army will obey when ordered to attack the people.

When a pro-democracy movement is genuinely a movement of the vast majority of people, then it will be a movement of friends, relatives and neighbors of rank-and-file soldiers; it will be a movement that those soldiers will be exceedingly reluctant to attack; and it can be a movement that those soldiers will decide to support by turning their weapons, when necessary, against the ruling elite. This is how a mass movement for democracy can defeat a ruling class, even one with a strong military force.

To succeed, however, the movement must be clear that it is at war with the ruling class. It must be clear that the outcome of that war will ultimately be decided by which side brings more violent force, or the credible threat of such violent force, against the other.
How does this relate to the philosophy of non-violence?

Non-violent tactics have their place. In order to become a truly mass movement, a movement for democracy must persuade the majority of people that it represents the morally right side of the conflict, and the ruling elite the morally wrong side. The movement must indeed use persuasion to win the support of the people; and this requires, of course, non-violent methods. When the movement confronts the ruling elite before it is powerful enough to forcibly defeat the ruling elite, as the Thai people are now doing, it makes perfect tactical sense to use methods that do not rely on violence. The strategic goal in this case is not to use force against the ruling class (not yet, at least) but to build the movement's strength by clarifying for the larger public 1) what the movement is for, 2) the fact that the ruling class opposes it and will even use violence against it, and 3) the fact that the movement consists of many people.

The problem with the philosophy of non-violence is not that non-violent tactics are never appropriate; the problem is that when it comes time to actually defeat the ruling elite, force or its credible threat must be employed, but the philosophy of non-violence asserts the contrary with its core premise that the oppressor can (and must) be morally persuaded--without reliance on violence or its threat--to stop oppressing.

Ruling elites generally do not believe that their oppression of the people is morally wrong; they do not lose sleep over it. The slave-owners of history did not think slavery was morally wrong. Capitalists do not think wage-slavery is morally wrong. Communist rulers do not think their one-party dictatorships are morally wrong. Israel's rulers do not think Zionist ethnic cleansing is morally wrong. The people can demonstrate the sincerity of their convictions, in an effort to morally persuade the elite to stop oppressing them, until they are blue in the face. It won't defeat the ruling elite. Superior force, or its credible threat, is what it takes.

The philosophy of non-violence is wrong in its assertion that the oppressor can be persuaded, without the use of force or its credible threat, to stop oppressing. The oft-cited example of Gandhi's success in making the British leave India is, ironically, illustrative of this very fact. Gandhi's "victory" did nothing to eliminate the power of a wealthy privileged elite to rule over and oppress the Indian masses, which was the situation immediately after this "victory" and is undeniably still the situation today.

Three cheers for the people of Thailand! Three cheers for their war to bring democracy to the country! Three cheers for their understanding that it is, indeed, a war!

Apologies: I haven't been able to make the wonderful photographs in this article by Thomas Barton appear on this blog. But the captions alone are worth reading. --John S.

Military Resistance:
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The Most Terrifying Sight An Evil Government Can See:

Military Resistance

Red-shirted supporters of deposed Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra ...

Mar 28: Thai soldiers wave and give thumbs-up sign to citizens marching In Bangkok against the military dictatorship of politicians and Army Generals that controls Thailand. (Photo: AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

“Women Threw Flowers At The Departing Troops, Who Smiled And Snapped Photos To Cheers From Protesters”

[Thanks to Sandy Kelson, Military Resistance, who sent this in.]

Mar 27 by Thanaporn Promyamyai, AFP [Excerpts]

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thai troops retreated from security posts in the capital Saturday, bowing to demands from 80,000 jubilant red-shirted protesters who mounted a rally to demand fresh elections.

The “Red Shirt” supporters of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra targeted seven points where soldiers have been stationed during two weeks of street demonstrations, including the city’s zoo and Buddhist temples.

In the face of the huge crowds of flag-waving protesters, who arrived in cars, on motorbikes and on foot, the military agreed to withdraw from the positions in Bangkok’s old quarter where the Reds have their main rally base.

Women threw flowers at the departing troops, who smiled and snapped photos to cheers from protesters, who turned the streets red with their colourful clothes and heart-shaped clappers.


Building For The Future:

An Excellent Example Of How To Move Soldiers Towards Armed Revolution Against A Corrupt Government

Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ...

Demonstrators leave no open space between themselves and the Thai soldiers, who are surrounded as they walk in line past the anti-government protesters March 27, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. This is a perfect example of what, in past revolutions, has been described as “the hot breath of the people melts the hearts of the soldiers.” (Photo: AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai soldiers, center, walk in line past anti-government protesters ...

Protesters and cheer and offer flowers to the soldiers as they retreat from their temporary base, March 27, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of protesters marched to seven temporary bases comprising schools and temples and asked the soldiers to abandon their bases and return to their barracks. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ...

Protesters cheer the soldiers as they leave their temporary base following the pressure from protesters March 27, 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of protesters marched to seven temporary bases comprising schools and temples and ask the soldiers to abandon their bases and return to their barracks. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hugs ...

A marcher hugs a Thai soldier in Bangkok March 27, 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

A protester and supporter of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ...

A protester kisses and thanks a soldier for retreating from a temporary base in Bangkok, Thailand, March 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai soldiers leave from a horse racing field in Bangkok, Thailand, ...

Warm smiles and waves as Thai soldiers leave the streets to go back to barracks in Bangkok, Thailand, March 27, 2010. Tens of thousands of red-shirted protesters marched across the historic heart of Bangkok on Saturday, clogging traffic in a renewed show of strength aimed at bringing down the government. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)


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