Was it the industrial elites who challenged and attacked you? If so who were they and why did they attack you? Why are they pushing for war?
A friend was telling me that we should not bring up Zionism in our public statements on wars because as Noam Chomsky claims Israel and Zionism are wholly owned subsidiaries of US imperialism. This got me thinking and I decided to write something about this (some day in far more detail than here). I am not going to delve here into the old history of Zionism and its movement from centering its activities on teh British Empire before WWII to the US after WWII. Nor am I able in such a short article to explore how Jewish Zionism molded and influenced the now prominent Christian Zionism (to which President Bush claims allegiance). Before I make some brief remarks, I also have several caveats/disclaimers:
1) Some political studies departments use the (wishful) term of “political science.” As a natural scientist (biology and genetics), I accept Karl Poppers definition that scientific theories must be by definition falsifiable (additional data and facts can prove them wrong). Ditto for analysis about how policy is formulated and driven. I reject vague notions that do not define what people are talking about. Thus, I will ask probing questoions (for example about the specific constitution of the industrial elites who supposedly run this country). I expect anything people say to be backed by concrete evidence not vague statements,
2) People tend to assume that what you write today will be your views next year and five years from now because that maybe the case for them. Words stay around. This explains the reluctance of other people to put their current thoughts in writing. I put this disclaimer to state that as a scientist, I believe it important to always be open to new facts and ideas changing the way one looks at political discourse.
3) Each person is shaped by life experiences and it is always good to share those experiences when making comments, especially if they are not quantifiable. It makes it more personal and it is more relevant to building a more harmonious society of diverse people with diverse experiences. So below I will speak of personal experiences.
4) One may hear all sorts of ideas about villains/the bad guys etc. I do not buy any of that. People are not bad. They may engage in bad behavior (including racism) but no human being is evil. They are shaped by their environment and they make choices. Their choices can sometimes have terrible consequences (participation in or supporting ethnic cleansing, genocide, occupations etc). This is the way that Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus, the Quran, and Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) taught us. In Islam it is stated to hate the “Munkir” (evil deeds) not to hate those who commit evil deeds (Munkireen). As a Palestinian Christian I also share that with all religions (if you look in each religion you find these universal themes): do not do unto others what you do not like being done unto you, avoid the ways of those who do bad things, work against bad things but leave the door open for those who commit them to rectify their ways.
5) I also wish to make this article ask questions that hopefully would spark activists to perhaps think of angles they did not think of before. It is also my way of thinking these things through (thinking out loud).
When asked, I hear sometimes that our “enemies” are motivated by things like “imperial interests”, “military/industrial greed” and “capitalism”. Such statements are far too simplistic and more importantly do not help us move these folks in any direction other than remaining our enemies. Even when you agree with someone it is wise to understand their motivation to maintain the agreement so teh same should be for dissagreement (if not more urgent). I feel many in the left enjoy simply dissagreeing with those in power and not understanding what the motivation of those at teh power table are (or even who these people are). When differences arise between those in power, many in teh ultra left dismiss them and continue to push forward in their "street corner" attitude (i.e. we will never understand let alone acquire power ourselves so let us just keep demonstrating against the powerful). But is it not that understanding diverse motivations if carefully investigated may cause you to reevaluate how you do activism and how you relate to other people or even revaluate your own political ideology.
We are in a war of ideas. Is it not useful to at least know who the enemy is (let alone know a bit more about them)? When an article was written three years ago titled “Professors who hate America” that included my name with that of Noam Chomsky, who wrote that article? A military industrial complex? An elitist? A capitalist? Fact is it was a human being called Daniel Pipes who believes in a political ideology (Zionism). He is not a right wing nut. Yes, he portrays himself as an expert on terrorism and Islam (see http://www.qumsiyeh.org/danielpipesasanexampleofmccarthiansilencing/ and (see also http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=9590 ). It is legitimate to ask what motivates him. What made him “educate” an obscure cultural editor in a Danish newspaper who then published cartoons that vilify Islam after rejecting cartoons that negatively depict Christianity and those that negatively depict Israeli leaders. What motivates Mr. Rose and Mr. Pipes and how can we gain them to the paths that some of us consider more rational? (Mr. Rose was invited and visited Pipes in 2004 in Philadelphia).
Who was it that objected to the article in the World Economic Forum magazine (Davos, Switzerland) about boycotting Israel (see http://www.qumsiyeh.org/theworldeconomicsforumcontroversy/ )? What motivated them and can we bring them to see the value of our non-violent approaches? When a group of people in CT tried to silence free speech at universities and colleges in CT and we demonstrated in front of their offices in New Haven, we asked ourselves who are they and what motivates them (answer a political ideology called Zionism). We challenged them to public dialogue, they refused. We demonstrated. The “Anti-Defamation League” and many other groups who attack us regularly(http://www.qumsiyeh.org/assaultontruth/ ) and pushed the US for war on Iraq and now on Iran and Syria are people and they have motivations (rightly or wrongly).
Are those who believe in Zionism all tools of “elite military industrial complex” (as one leftist activist stated) or do they sit at the power table with other people who have other interests (simple money greed) or is it a combination of motivations? Even if one accepts the (false) assumption that Zionists are tools and are not at the center of power, what does that mean to activism? Wouldn’t one be able to say that the SS Troopers were tools of Nazi elites? Or do people have their own motivations and ideas that need to be analyzed on their merit and that motivate them to do the things they do? More importantly how do we bring about a change in society? We continue to ask for public and private dialogues with anyone who thinks they have the truth on their side in rejecting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.
If one thinks that Israel is a wholly owned subsidiary of a vague "US Imperialism", then how does one explain the capitulation of both Ronald Reagan and George Bush 41 to AIPAC (Israel's lobby)? How does one explain the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in International waters and then pushing congress to scuttle the investigation (see http://www.ussliberty.org/ )?
Why did many CEOs of oil companies caution against starting hostitlities in Iraq and why did some of these right wing folks in position of power challenge the neocons? Were the highly educated people who pushed for the war on Iraq really stupid not to predict civil strife in Iraq or was that really expected and even cheered? If so what motivated them?
Do different people have different interests or at least different ideas about their “interests”? Can they be self-destructive interests? When you argue against the ideas, why do people have a tendency to try to label you as against (or for) other people? Do varied interests sometime collide? Do people have mistaken (short term) views of their own interests? Would we be able to engage and educate to show people that what we perceive as interests of the human family is more enduring and ultimately is good for them? Would we be able to do that effectively if we do not really understand what motivates people?
What motivated an otherwise progressive editor of a progressive newspaper in Wisconsin to label the Green Party a “party of hate” because of the call for non-violent boycotts and divestments until Israel complies with International law? What motivates a wealthy Republican lawyer in CT to donate and support ending the war on Iraq and ending US support for the occupation and oppression in Palestine? What motivates General William Odum (National Security advisor for Ronald Reagan) who is now at Yale to write that Iraq is like Vietnam and we must get out (adding in response to a question that people like Perle and Wolfowitz are not doing this country a great service by now pushing for confrontation with Iran)? Are these "pegs" of the “military industrial complex” arguing among themselves for distractioon? Should we really give up on engaging with them and trying to dialogue and understand the differences between people sitting at the levers of power in this country? These people do have motivations, understanding them should not be dismissed as an excercize in futility any more than understanding what motivated MLK Jr, Ghandi, or for that matter what motivates Hillary Clinton, Richard Perle, and Muqtada AlSadr?
Pledging bipartisan allegiance to Apartheid at AIPAC’s (Israel’s lobby in Washington claiming membership of over 100,000) conference are always prominent Democrats and Republicans as well as prominent Israelis who engage in war crimes. In the press kit it is stated that AIPAC is “consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill”. If all they are simly a tool of the US elites, then I am not sure how they managed to get people like Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney out (and now that she is back, they are trying again). The theme this year was that “Iran is the biggest threat” and in lieu of Arafat, the new scapegoat for avoiding peace talks is Hamas. All speakers dutifully reiterated this (for quotes from last year’s speakers including Hillary Clinton and Ariel Sharon, see http://www.qumsiyeh.org/2006aroundthecorner/ for reference). Anyway some of the “distinguished” speakers this year included: Richard B. Cheney, Richard Perle, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), House Majority Leader Congressman John Boehner (R-OH), U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) , John Edwards, Former Senator from North Carolina, Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House , Israeli Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, Israeli Brig.-Gen. Michael Herzog, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Chairman of the Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Chairman of the Labor Amir Peretz, Party, Columnist for The New York Post John Podhoretz, Robert Satloff (Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, AIPAC spinoff), Mark Warner, Former Governor of Virginia, Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon.
What motivates those people and the dozens of other speakers and the 5000 attendees? Why can’t we go ahead and read the transcripts of the speeches without making assumptions about AIPAC being a tool of US imperialism or the assumption that AIPAC runs Washington or any other assumption. Let them speak for themselves (transcripts are posted at http://www.aipac.org/PC2006/transcripts.html ).
Some in the left circles decry European colonialism. Yet, was the late Prof. Edward Said correct in his book “Orientalism” that there is also liberal cultural imperialism that we have to contend with and that is far more subtle and hard to deal with? When we hear people say with confidence that “We know about human rights” and “we know what is best way to build the movement to challenge imperialism”, or “we do not want to hear about what motivates suicide bombings” (at other crimes, we always ask for motives!); when we hear these things, do we at least stop to think that maybe we really do not have all the answers? Maybe we need to have the humility to engage and listen to others (especially people of color and the victims we profess to want to help).
Some will continue to push their agendas of war, occupation, oppression, colonization all while engaged in demonization of their victims. Many will continue to provide inspiring examples of self sacrifice for peace with justice. This week we commemorate the murder of Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old killed by an Israeli soldier while engaged in non-violent action to stop persistent human rights violations. In the Gaza strip last week, seven Palestinians were murdered by the Israeli occupation army including five children (see http://www.imemc.org/content/view/17255/1/ ). As I browse a website called http://www.truthout.org , I am struck by how most of this information is shielded by the mainstream media from people in the United States. Who is in the mainstraem media shielding the information and what is their motivation? Isn't a knowledge of this important to our activism (ie. recognizing who our adversaries are)?
But change requires first getting people around to hear each other. Signs are growing that the oppressed people are getting together and mobilizing ever more loudly and positive energy is out there from Venezuela to Bolivia to Iraq and Palestine. Nearly 100,000 signed to say no to war on International Women’s day on March 8 (see http://www.womensaynotowar.org/). In CT, I believe groups like CT United For Peace brings peopel together to learn from each other (hopefully with respect and humility and not with an attitude of accusations and acrimonious debate). We do know that, while two thirds of the US public oppose the war on Iraq and 2/3rds want US policy to be even-handed in Israel/Palestine, that our congress and media are pushing for even more conflicts (Lebanon, Iran, Syria). But our biggest challenges remain ourselves. Are we to do the homeowrk beyond calling for peace, question assumptions about others and think creatively beyond the boxes. Do we engage positively and proactively with people outside the choir? How do we keep an open mind in an ever changing world in which the only constant is change itself?
I ask these questions because I am tired of the oversimplified sloganism in some left circles. Sloganism that isolates and segregates and refuses to take responsibility for doing thw really hard work needed to challenge our adversaries (even not pinpointing who teh adversaries are).
To me this quote from Joseph Campbell (which I quote in my book on “Sharing the Land of Canaan”) comes to mind:
“Today, the walls and towers of the culture-world that then were in the building are dissolving ... But of course, on the other hand, for those who can still contrive to live within the fold of a traditional mythology of some kind, protection is still afforded against the dangers of an individual life; and for many the possibility of adhering in this way to established formulas is a birthright they rightly cherish, since it will contribute meaning and nobility to their unadventured lives, ... and to those for whom such protection seems a prospect worthy of all sacrifice, and orthodox mythology will afford both the patterns and the sentiments of a lifetime of good repute. However, by those to whom such living would be not life, but anticipated death, the circumvallating mountains that to others appear to be of stone are recognized as of the mist of dream, and precisely between their God and Devil, heaven and hell, white and black, the man of heart walks through. Out beyond those walls, in the uncharted forest night, where the terrible wind of God blows directly on the questing undefended soul, tangled ways may lead to madness. They may also lead, however, as one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages tells, to 'all those things that go to make heaven and earth.”
The Buddhists teaching is to "have joyful participation in the sorrows of this world”. Jesus had a similar teaching (not getting angry or bitter or even attack those who attack you). Participation is the key word here because all possibilities are opened when participating with joyful optimism in the sorrows of this world. You participate by trying to change things without hate and keeping the doors open to those you disagree with (because change does come to all and most of it is self-directed). See you in the streets and in our electronic and earthly world community.