Zionism keeps Israelis and Palestinians Apart
Zionism Keeps Israelis and Palestinians Apart
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh
Originally appeared in the Eagle Tribune January 16, 2006
In hundreds of presentations we did at Middle Schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and elsewhere, this was only the second time we were "disinvited." We want to thank the teachers who invited us and the hundreds of students who worked diligently to make sure they hear us. The events went very well at the classes and we received countless positive emails from students, teachers, parents, and community members.
The Wheels of Justice brings eyewitness accounts to occupations in Iraq and Palestine. Our speakers come from various political backgrounds; the only requirement is that they support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and support nonviolence as an alternative to war and injustice. We also recognize that to achieve peace anywhere in the world, the root causes of injustice, racism, and oppression must be addressed. We also have speakers who are Jewish and even Holocaust survivors (e.g. 80 year-old Hedy Epstein).
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) led the effort to describe us and teachers who invited us as "anti-Israel" or even "anti-Semitic." In 1980, the ADL covertly distributed a 21-page booklet containing "background information on pro-Arab sympathizers active on college campuses." Later the ADL was fined and signed a statement pledging not to engage in spying and collecting information after federal investigators found that ADL had paid investigative police officers to gather information on Arab Americans and African Americans active in the movement against apartheid South Africa (see http://www.counterpunch.org/adlspying2.html).
But the ADL is not the only well-funded groups attempting to recruit Jews to support dubious agendas by attacking anyone who dares to speak out. For an understanding of these attempts to silence free speech on this issue in Congress, in the media, and at college campuses, people should read Congressman Paul Findley's book "They Dare to Speak Out."
We have significant history and experience working with Israeli Jews and other Jews collaboratively on peace projects. Yet, a vocal minority insists that if you do not support Zionism as a segregationist ideology, you are automatically "anti-Semitic" (or if Jewish "self-hating Jew"). This defamation is not only false, but is also dangerous. (I prefer the more accurate term "anti-Jewish" rather than "anti-Semitic" because many Jews are not Semites (e.g. European Ashkenazi Jews or Ethiopian Jews) and most Semites are not Jews - for example, Palestinians. But the term, initially coined by a racist German anti-Jew, is now so common so I use it here.)
Zionism is a colonial political movement with adherents among people of various religions, including Christian Zionists. Judaism on the other hand is one of the three great monotheistic religions. Most Jews are anti-Zionist, non-Zionist, or post-Zionist (as are most Christians and Muslims). Using the term anti-Semitic is wrong but also dangerous, because it cheapens and mocks the memory of all those who suffered truly because of their religion. It is also instructive to read books like those by Jews such as Norman Finkelstein (whose parents are survivors of Nazi atrocities), Lenni Brenner, Naeim Giladi, Israel Shahak and others about why Zionism is a mirror image of other segregationist ideologies.
So far we spent over $400 billion of our taxes to occupy Iraq for control of oil and other Zionist plans to reshape the Middle East, and over $1 trillion to support the Israeli government (highest recipient of U.S. aid, we gave it more than we gave to Africa as a continent). Yet, one-third of Israeli children live below the poverty line, while Israel is using billions of our tax money to ethnically cleanse and oppress the native Palestinians. Love of Israel becomes meaningless if it does not mean changing life for the better for these Israeli children (and millions of Palestinian children). Only a public outcry would force the U.S. government to change its policies of supporting oppression despite the strong lobbies in Washington. That is why groups like ADL attempt to stifle debate and any exposition of the truth. The attacks on President Jimmy Carter for his latest book on Israeli apartheid, like the attacks on Andover High School, are symptomatic.
Israel is the only country in the world that does not define itself as a country of its citizens (Jews and non-Jewish citizens). It defines itself as a country for and by the Jewish people everywhere. Every Jew in the world is considered as a national of the state whether they want it or not (part of 'Am Yisrael). Any Jew including converts can go there, get automatic citizenship and live on Palestinian lands while Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return simply because they are Christian or Muslim. Further, no other country has supra-national entities that are more influential in shaping policies than its national institutions (e.g. ADL, Jewish National Fund, Jewish Agency and World Zionist Congress).
Israeli artists declared in 2002: "If the state of Israel aspires to perceive itself as a democracy, it should abandon once and for all, any legal and ideological foundation of religious, ethnic and demographic discrimination. The state of Israel should strive to become the state of all its citizens. We call for the annulment of all laws that make Israel an apartheid state, including the Jewish law of return in its present form." That desire to improve one's country represents the ultimate love of country/patriotism, rather than the reflexive parroting of propaganda and blaming the victims of those policies (whether in Andover or Palestine). The same applied to U.S. citizens who spoke for civil rights, to end the war on Vietnam, to end support for apartheid South Africa and more recently to end support for the war on Iraq and on Palestine.
The school principal said to those who tried to disrupt the meeting in Andover: If we can't make peace here, how do we expect them to make peace there? Thus, we again urge those who consider themselves our opponents/enemies to agree to civic public dialogue. Our contact information is available on the Web.
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Christian Palestinian American and coordinator for the Wheels of Justice bus tour and author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle." His Web site is www.qumsiyeh.org.