As Red Crescent medics began retrieving dead bodies from the
devastated Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin, as many as 100,000 pro-Israel
demonstrators massed at the Capitol in D.C.
The demonstration brought together conservative Jews and radical right-wing
Christians, conservative Republicans and Democrats. Among the speakers were
Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, and Gary Bauer, the
Christian Right's last Republican presidential candidate. Israel's former
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, New York's former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani,
holocaust writer Elie Wiesel, House Majority leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and
House Minority leader, Richard A. Gephardt, (D-Missouri) were also on hand.
What brought them together was a war on terrorism, two wars, in fact --
George W. Bush's and Ariel Sharon's. Speaker after speaker drew the parallels
between the attacks of September 11 and the suicide bomber-attacks in Israel.
"Americans know that Arafat is nothing more than Osama bin Laden with good
P.R.," said Netanyahu, who knows how to whip up an American crowd for a
Middle East war, as he did almost nightly during the Gulf War.
Observers from the left responded with vehemence. "A Jewish Nuremberg rally,"
professor Norman Finkelstein called it on Pacifica's Democracy Now. Does the
metaphor fit? You'll have to take that up with Finkelstein. Does such
vilifying language about everyone who chose to show up at Monday's rally help
grow a peace and justice movement? NO, I suggest not.
Concerned progressives have been rightly raging for weeks over the Israeli
assault on Palestine. Collective punishment, extra-judicial execution, lack
of food and water, denial of access to humanitarian and medical assistance --
the stories from the re-occupied West Bank horrify and outrage.
The problem, some observers would like to suggest, are the Jews. "At the
heart of it, isn't the idea of a "chosen people," what makes all this
possible?" one anxious New Yorker -- a Jewish woman -- asked on Working
Assets Radio a few weeks ago. You know what? Americans act like chosen people
Americans, all of us, appear to believe we're entitled -- to consume two
thirds of the world's resources, for one thing, (though we comprise only one
20th of the population) and to live off land that became "ours" through a
Every year, the majority of our elected representatives roundly reject the
suggestion that today's taxpayers should reimburse from our collective
coffers, those whose stolen labor and land made possible our national wealth.
Segregation, Jim Crow, racist immigration policies and denial of the vote:
the United States, over hundreds of years, passed laws to keep those who
weren't "special" (which is to say, land-owning, white and male) in their
We Americans know about supremacist thinking, therefore. We know about
vilifying the "other" -- the slave, the criminal, the terrorist, the queer,
the kook. Belief that we are somehow "special" or better or more deserving,
or more hard-working or more godly, makes it easier not to worry about the
humanity of those "others." And our government, like the government of the
Israelis, does whatever it takes -- up to and including mass slaughter -- to
"punish" those who would have it otherwise, and to keep the good things of
life for itself.
There is good news. Conservatives are at each other's throats over Israel.
When White House hawk, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz deigned
to mention the suffering of Palestinians and the "future of Palestine's
children," at this week's Israel rally, he was aggressively booed down by the
William Bennett who just last month launched a whole organization to pursue
disloyal Americans who "fail to support or understand" Bush's stand against
terror at home and abroad, told the New York Times, that by sending Colin
Powell to negotiate with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, Bush was angering
"his entire political base."
While conservatives fight, it's time for progressives to come together, Jew
and Gentile, patriots, anti-patriots, believers, devoted agnostics, leftists,
liberals, the worried, the angry and the terrified. To varying degrees but
without exception, we have a duty to be humble. Outrageous crimes have been
and continue to be committed in each one of our names. The fingers we point
at our neighbors we would do just as well to direct at ourselves.
On Saturday, April 20, progressive Americans will mass in Washington and around
the country to oppose both Bush’s and Sharon's wars and call for an end to racism.
The April 20th rally won't attract the same support from powerful politicians
and media magnates that the rally that claimed to be "for Israel" received (what's
good for Ariel Sharon is not necessarily good for Israelis or their state.) But
by rights the anti-war, anti-racism rally will attract equal if not greater numbers.
In a time of war, people who prioritize peace and justice are special -- and we
bear a special responsibility to join together across our differences to make
a different world.
Journalist Laura Flanders is the host of Working Assets Radio with Laura Flanders --
(listen live on line) and author of "Real Majority, Media Minority: The Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting." Her Spin Doctor Laura columns appear weekly on WorkingForChange. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2002 WorkingForChange.com