Madison, Wisconsin. Becky is a bright, peaceful, and clear-minded woman living outside Madison.
She works at a Fortune 500 company based in Wisconsin. She is in fact a wonderful human being–warm, funny, remarkably giving and thoughtful, the type of person you would like to look after your children for a weekend.
Socially liberal and humanistic, this woman goes out of her way at work to make everyone around her feel comfortable, not a tribalist bone in her body. I work next to her. Knowing of my interest in politics, she began a conversation last week after the Hamas terrorist bombing at Hebrew University in Jerusalem killed 12 people, including, significantly, five Americans.
“You know Mike, what they should do is kill 10 terrorists for each life (that the terrorists) take.”
Her remark starkly contrasted with the peaceful, clear-minded woman I talk to at work every day.
I averred that the deterrent effect of such action would probably be negligible and “well, more innocent people would probably be killed (a result that I know she does not support).” Chatting casually, we both recognized that our setting precluded diving much further into the topic (begun anyway as the social equivalent of a “hello”).
Becky’s casual remark — killing 10 of theirs’ for every one of ours’ — well describes the official policy outcome of Israeli occupation and its bellicose crusade for Israeli lebensraum, that raised-to-kill, sick child of American foreign policy that the Promised Land has become for the few million human beings trying to live next door. Becky’s fleeting acceptance of killing innocents is what American foreign policy has propagated.
Most Americans are silent as the Israeli Defense Forces inflict the systematic dismantlement of Palestinian civilization with American weaponry. We are silent as Sharon purposefully provokes the expected response of further terrorism by Hamas and the like.
A moral equivalency? A New York Times editorial (August 4, 2002, “Mideast Terror Brought Home”) engages that equation side-on: “The point here is not that the deaths of innocents caused by Israel’s attack and Hamas’s blatant act of terror are morally equivalent. The point is that they are both terribly wrong.” Can you believe that?
Not addressed by the Times editorial of course is that we are in a ready position to halt Israel’s “terribly wrong” actions, and the bringing-it-all-back-home response terrorism. But the appellation of “terribly wrong” likely constitutes the strongest condemnation of Israeli terrorism that the Times can muster.
In the Mideastern debate there is an ethic (widely observed and Israeli apologist Elie Wiesel-endorsed) precluding comparisons of Israeli foreign policy to Nazi foreign policy. This is an ethic rooted in the contemporary denial of Israeli terrorism, a reasonable sensitivity to survivors, and an altogether different grotesque misuse of the Holocaust. I certainly do not entirely subscribe to it.
But as an American I will say that I reject Israeli terrorism and to Ariel Sharon, I say: You sir, belong in the company of the very terrorists who are killing and maiming Israeli innocents. You know your policy will result in further killing of innocents on all sides of this conflict. Therefore, you no longer have a place among the civilized people of the world and you should remove yourself. You have become a murdering pig of the type that should haunt humanity through the future of civilization.
With Bush at the helm, the American non response can be summed up in the appearance of Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser, on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 30, 2002 . Calling for the removal of Arafat (and naturally not Sharon) and disingenuously attempting to dress up Bush’s refusal to end Israeli aggression and actively work for peace in the region, Rice repeated the word “change” a dozen times, spoke of an “emergence” and a “new dynamic,” and used a load of other action words to describe Bush’s insistence to do nothing as a commitment that “…in fact, we don’t intend to stand and do nothing.” (Remarkably, Rice had called for free media access for all political persuasions in the next Palestinian election–a deviation from administration distaste for domestic campaign public financing.)
As millions of Americans, the vast majority of the world, and I strongly suspect my colleague Becky (even in reacting to Americans being killed) would agree, the time remains urgent for a solution along the lines of United Nation Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), a two-state solution for peace and justice that the major supplier of arms in the region can seed and bequeath to future generations in the face of almost unanimous world-wide endorsement.
America needs only to see the bright, clear-minded vision within it that the rest of the world has recognized for over three decades.
Back at the Fortune 500 company, Becky did mention later that, “yep, somebody has do something.”
Mike Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His work has appeared nationally in In These Times, The Progressive and CounterPunch.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org