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October 30, 2001
Tactics for Reaching American Jews

By Bob Green


Tactics for Reaching American Jews: A dialogue
By Bob Green

I write as an American Jew from a family whose support of the Zionist project over the past hundred years has contributed far too much to the suffering of the Palestinian people, and therefore to that of the Jewish people whose heritage and future are inextricably commingled with them. I am engaged in many discussions with Jewish friends about the issues of Palestine/Israel. My goal is to move Jews to actively oppose the oppressive policies of the Israeli government. Some of these discussions have taken the form of badgering, in which I deluged the friend with facts, articles, and heartrending first-person testimonies of Palestinians struggling to survive the vicious and illegal Israeli occupation. Included in my private propaganda efforts, depending on the recipient, are Jewish voices for justice, such as Amira Hass, Uri Avneri, Israel Shamir, Noam Chomsky, Jeffrey Halper, Gila Svirski, Jules Rabin and others who speak to, and in some cases, for me.

Below, I share the voices of two friends in order to illustrate this sometimes-painful discourse. One, whom I will call "B_______" is an Israeli national who takes a militant anti-Zionist position, even to the point of being willing to make alliances with extreme right-wing anti-Semites, whose writings he freely disseminates in his own attempt to build a coalition to defeat Israeli intransigence. I argue against this tactic, as the reader will see, not only for the obvious moral reasons, but also for tactical reasons.
My other friend, whom I will call "Z________," quoted at the end of this article, has had a recent epiphany. I find this inspiring and admirable, as well as valuable in creating a methodology to awaken Jewish people to what I see as our duty to act as humanists; to abandon narrow, tribal hatreds; and to work for the survival and benefit of both precious peoples.

First, from "B__________": "A pressure applied on the Jewish community could force their spokesmen and leaders to become more cautious, as Jews traditionally were, and stay away from the Middle Eastern issue. As much as I love my Jewish brothers and sisters, I am aware that many of us are possessed by Jingoist spirit. Anyway, the position of Jews in America is so strong, that a bit of challenge would cause no harm."

My response:

My Dear Friend ,

I appreciate your answer, and, as always, the bright fire of democratic discourse which inspires you to entertain criticisms of your own opinions in an open spirit of earnest inquiry and struggle. I take a different position about the above, at least as it relates to the situation of those of us of Jewish origin and/or practice here in the U.S.

I agree that our position is very strong in this country, in general, and that the point of view of those whose opposition to Israeli policy is grounded not in sincere love for the Palestinian people, but more sinisterly, in an abiding hatred of the Jews, can do us little harm. An analysis of why this is true reveals why any alliance with these haters is misdirected: the average American will read their screeds and use them as reason to doubt the veracity of Palestinian claims to be seeking their inalienable human rights. The writings of "allies" like Womack, David Duke, etc., are grist for the AIPAC and WJC and other Zionist house organs' mills: they feed on this stuff, and if not supplied them with it, they would surely craft imitations, to further discredit the Palestinians and their supporters.

I agree that American Jews MUST be challenged. Anti-Semitic inferences and conspiracy theories are not a serious challenge. We American Jews have spent 100 years ridiculing these tactics which leave most of our fellow Americans unimpressed and unconvinced, and which may move them into closer collusion with the crimes of Israel as it becomes demonstrable that the enemies of Israeli policy are also the enemies of the Jews, of democracy, and possibly, of sanity. The real way to challenge Jews is to appeal to their sense of morality, whether real or feigned. They must be made to feel shame in the face of the truth about Israel's continued violations of human rights and international law. It must be held before them like the mirror to the vile face of the wicked stepmother in Snow White. They will react to shame, not to ultra-right paranoia about secret cabals, hidden resources, nor bones ground for Matzot. As Jews, we are a deceived and betrayed people. Many of us continue to believe the Zionist tripe we have been fed from Herzl's time on, and especially from Ben-Gurion's and Sharon's time on.

I include below, to illustrate, an excerpt from an email I received recently from an old friend, a Jewish "liberal", a psychologist in New York, who had abruptly ended our years of correspondence some months ago in a fit of rage over my almost daily forwards of devastating reports from Bethlehem, Ramallah, Aboud, Hebron, etc. of violence, brutality and gross violations of international law by her precious Israeli government.

I re-opened our correspondence early this month by sending her a copy of Reema's letter from Hebron, recently published on NileMedia under the title "Dear Jules, I Am Shaking", detailing the hideous assaults on her blind, elderly father, and the deaths of several friends and neighbors due to the invasion of her Abu-Snieh neighborhood by gangs of armed Israeli war criminals in tanks. My New York friend broke her long silence the next day. Her family has roots in the early Zionist colonies, an uncle having died in the riots of the 1930's, supposedly at the hands of Palestinians, and it has been an article of faith for her to support unquestioningly the Israeli positions. Until NOW. I include this excerpt to shed some light on the process of transformation in which a formerly pro-Zionist American of Jewish origin reacts morally to her shame, opens her eyes and looks at the ugly truth:



I finally got it for myself. This whole time, with my trying to explain my emotional baggage and background on this issue, and you vehemently trying to convince me of X,Y,Z, I've always felt there was something dreadfully wrong. Not with you. With me.

I know, on any humanitarian level, your are, to a greater or lesser degree, right. But I've been unable to say that. Today, finally, I realized why and why I repeatedly talked to you about my feelings and not the reality/facts). I totally agree with you that Israel is behaving in a cruel and unacceptable way to its non-Jewish population (whether Arab or Palestinian-Muslim or Palestinian-Christian). And it must stop. However unlike you, (although, come to think of it, I don't know if this is your solution), I feel sad about the loss of Israel as a homeland for Jews. If Israel becomes pluralistic, it loses what I'd been taught was important about having an Israel. (If the solution is to have a Palestinian homeland for Palestinians along side a Jewish homeland, I'll be interested to see how they deal with the in-group/out-group problem, inevitable differences, potential prejudice and oppression toward the out-group, etc.). I feel deep shame about wanting Israel to be a Jewish homeland, since it has caused such hatred, oppression and pain for so many. I feel deep shame about abandoning this ideal that never worked. It is a betrayal of my father and family and ideals.

For you, there is right and wrong. There is no emotion except righteous anger. You seem self-righteous in your views about this and why not, you are on the side of right. What I was trying to tell you, without knowing it, is that the reality is the same for me as it is for you- but not the feelings. And yes, I'm clearly alive after the attack on the World Trade Center. I've stopped crying three times a day. I'm still afraid of crowds, Grand Central Terminal (where I commute to/from), and the subway, but I go and do it every day.

You called me a racist. You have no idea what racism is until you talk with some of the survivors. I'm appalled and frightened by the hate this has engendered (for a minority). I think we should all start wearing Muslim scarves as women and kefirs (right word?) as men. How else are we going to be able to protect our Muslim population? I work with a Muslim woman. Her husband shaved his mustache out of fear he'd be seen as a terrorist; she's afraid to travel by plane because of the inevitable interrogation that will occur upon her return; her cousin, who wears the traditional scarf, is too afraid to leave her home and had the neighbor food shop for her. What kind of country has she come to? You must always protect the weakest- or it causes fear in all of us. Basic group dynamics....

I could not continue to receive your emails about the Palestinians because it just makes me feel shame and sadness. I needed a break. Like turning off the TV when I've seen the towers fall one time too many. Continue to send everything.



Who is Bob Green?
Bob Green is a member of "Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel." "Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel" works to support the survival of the Palestinian people and to end the illegal, immoral, and brutal Israeli occupation through education, advocacy, and action. VTJP is committed to the principles of self-determination for the Palestinian people, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and full civil and political rights for all Palestinians in order to promote the equality and safety of both Palestinians and Israelis.

For more information or to contact this organization, please visit www.VTJP.org or email at VTJP@VTJP.org