An existential struggle
An existential struggle, by Mazin Qumsiyeh
It is amazing how little was said in US mainstream media about the decision by Israel's supreme court recognizing some non-Orthodox conversion to Judaism. Israeli and European papers debated this issue clearly revealing that Israel is the only country in the world that recognizes members of a particular religion as nationals of the state entitled to automatic citizenship regardless of where they live and what their current citizenship happens to be (or even if they want such "right").
Despite a concerted propaganda campaign with billions spent, most Jews chose to live outside Israel and most are non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist. Zionists thus made sure on many occasions that persecuted Jews have only one place to migrate (e.g. by pressuring the US Congress and the German government not to increase Soviet Jewish migration to the West but to insist on migration to Israel).
This issue, poorly understood by many because of a media blackout on open discussion is at the core of the failure of US foreign policy. Prior to Truman (who was pressured by an emerging Zionist lobby), no US president supported Zionism. Such support is actually contrary to US constitutional mandates separation of Church and state and not promoting religion. Yet, even Truman and those who came after him to support Israel because of the cold war, understood that such a state was created based on a deep injustice to the native Palestinians(Christians and Muslims).
The West Bank and Gaza together comprise 22% of historic Palestine but even here, some 450,000 Jewish colonial settlers control over half the land while 3.5 million Palestinians are squeezed into smaller and smaller areas not different from Indian reservations (now being surrounded by walls and fences). The other 78% of Palestine is now home to 4.5 million Jews and 1.2 million remaining Palestinians. But those Palestinians are by no means equal Israeli citizens (even if they have a right to vote). Even excluding the continuous racist paranoia about their ?demographic threat?, nearly one quarter of them are considered by law "present absentees" meaning that they did not join their relative in Lebanon or Gaza as refugees but their land is confiscated and turned over for Jewish National Fund use under the "absentee property" basic law. Over 100 of these remaining Palestinian towns and villages are "unrecognized" by the state and thus receive no governmental services (water, roads, schools, electricity etc.).
As for Palestinian refugees, over 500 of their villages and towns were destroyed (see PalestineRemembered.com) and now they constitute two-thirds of the 9 million Palestinians in the world. This process, while accelerated under the fog of five wars, never stopped. In the past four years alone, over 16,000 Palestinians lost their homes by Israeli army demolitions (per the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, ICAHD.org), a process now going unchecked and unreported since the Palestinians declared a cease-fire and the myth of "peace process" resumed. How is it fair that any Jew, including converts to Judaism (now adding non-orthodox conversions), can come live on Palestinian land while Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied their basic right to return? Studies show that such return of native people is possible and desirable without displacing Israelis and
even improving standard of living for all.
This basic injustice of political Zionism is the reason for continued instability in the Middle East. It is why a Zionist like Henry Kissinger would state that under his leadership, the policy was to get Iranians and Iraqis "to kill each other" (the Iran-Iraq war took one million lives and the US give aid to both parties!). It is why Zionists like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz were instrumental in violating the UN charter by invading Iraq. In 1996-1997, these same folks explained the benefit to Israel. In one of their studies, they said it would be difficult to sell this program of "preemption" and hegemony "save for a Pearl Harbor like event" (Project for the New American Century). These words uttered before 9/11/01 are chilling when one combines them with the fact that so far we spent $250 billion to support Israel?s destruction of Palestine and $160 billion for the occupation and destruction of Iraq (not counting the 11 years of destruction before the last invasion that took one million Iraqi lives due to US led sanctions and infrastructure destruction). The costs have been staggering in terms of lives lost and destroyed: thousands of Israelis and Americans and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Iraqis.
All for what? Is it so that the "only democracy in the Middle East" can decide in its Knesset and Courts whether Reform Jews are equivalent to Orthodox Jews in their conversion and thus "rights" to settle on Palestinian land? Is it so that we can continue to prop up undemocratic regimes like Egypt and Jordan so long as they have signed peace treaties with Israel or if they keep the oil flowing at cheap prices while propping rich US military and other corporations (e.g. Saudi Arabia)? Is it not time for everyone to demand a rational US foreign policy that recognizes native rights and puts people rigst ahead of corporate greed? And for those of us (Palestinian or otherwise) who are not part of the elite, is it not time we recognize that this is an existential struggle shared by all humans?