Below is an article I wrote in 1986 when the American peace movement
was "breaking the silence" on the issues of United States aid to Israel
and Israeli oppression of Palestinians. In the 16 years since
article was published, American peace and antiwar movements have
progressed to the point members can speak openly about, and organize
these issues without automatic charges of "anti-Semitism." My new
article addresses both the updated political issues and the
emotional issues around Middle East organizing.
Even after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which most people believe were motivated in large part by the U.S. pro-Israel bias, vigorous criticism of Israel and Israel supporters can bring charges of bigotry from Israel supporters and the pro-war press. Questionable charges of bigotry, be it against women, ethnic, racial or religious groups, or Jews, especially when used to intimidate or bully people for selfish purposes, only creates an angry back lash that makes people less and less sensitive to real bigotry.
THE MIDDLE EAST: ISSUES AND EMOTIONS
By Carol Moore
Published in the War Resisters League’s magazine THE NONVIOLENT ACTIVIST November 1986
The Middle East is the most militarily volatile area of the world and the most likely flash point for nuclear war. The Middle East is also a volatile political issue generating conflict within the American peace movement. These conflicts have resulted in the movement's continuing ignorance regarding the Middle East and its lack of action which belie its commitment to preventing both conventional and nuclear war. I intend to describe briefly the factors making the Middle East such a dangerous war zone, especially for a potential nuclear war, and to explore how debate and action are being, and can be, encouraged within the peace movement.
The Middle East is wracked with religious, ideological, national, and territorial disputes. Some disputes are between nations, such as Iran and Iraq, Libya and its neighbors, and Israel and other Arab nations. Others are internal, as between religious factions in Lebanon, and between Muslim fundamentalists or Marxist radicals and established governments. These conflicts are aggravated by the intervention of the two "super-powers," the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union feels its intervention is warranted to protect its own security and lo maintain a sphere of. influence in its own region, just as the United States has through Central and South America. However, its intervention has been relatively limited, so far, to its invasion of Afghanistan to prop up Its Marxist government, aid to various Arab Marxist rebels, and arms sales and training to nations like Syria and Libya which are out of favor with the United States.
The United States feels its intervention is necessary in order to protect oil interests, friendly Arab nations, Christians in Lebanon, and the state of Israel from radical Arab and Muslim nations and splinter groups, and, of course, from the Soviet Union. Soviet intervention doubtless would be more extensive were it not deterred by the massive U.S. military presence in the area. This includes a number of bases in the Mediterranean, Arab nations, and the Indian Ocean, and several hundred thousand American troops. In 1986 the U.S. spent almost $70 billion to maintain this presence, including almost $5 billion in military aid to Egypt and Israel.
The U.S. military presence has included threats to use nuclear weapons to prevent any Soviet aggression in the area. In 1956, President Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons if the U.S.S.R. became involved in the Suez Crisis. In 1958, Eisenhower threatened Soviet-backed Egypt and Syria to keep them from interfering in Lebanon. In 1967, President Johnson considered using nuclear weapons during the Arab-Israeli war and the Washington-Moscow hotline was used for the first time. In 1973, during another Arab-Israeli war, President Nixon declared a nuclear alert that moved U.S. readiness to "DEFCON III". In 1979, after the invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter threatened to use "any means necessary", including nuclear weapons, in order to maintain U.S. supremacy in the Middle East. Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which included clashes with Syrian and Soviet troops, nearly triggered a nuclear alert. In this battle for superpower supremacy in the region, the Soviets have backed down under every nuclear threat-so far.
Confident of its power to face down the Soviets, the United States has acted irresponsibly in the area. It has approved and even subsidized arms sales to both sides in the Iran-Iraq and Israel-Arab conflicts. It has steadily increased aid and ties to Israel, and even encouraged the invasion of Lebanon. However, the U.S. has refused to make honest attempts to deal with the important issues of Palestinian rights or the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and Southern Lebanon. More recently, the U.S. has used the smokescreen of Arab terrorism to excuse adventures like the U.S. attack on Libya.
American irresponsibility has understandably angered Arab and Muslim peoples, who, like other Third World peoples, have resented and resisted U.S. intervention in their affairs. Many have turned to Muslim fundamentalism in protest against western influence, both American and Russian. Some groups and nations have turned to terrorism, and all have turned to anyone willing to sell them arms. Currently, one half of all military sales worldwide go to Middle East nations. This includes predominantly state-of-the-art aircraft, missiles, and ground equipment. Moreover, the region is rapidly becoming nuclearized. Israel has nuclear capability already, and Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, and Iran, are all working feverishly towards it.
Where might conventional war in the Middle East become nuclear? Some possibilities are a Soviet invasion of Iran or Pakistan, an Iranian defeat of Iraq and subsequent attack on Gulf oil nations, the overthrow of the Saudi Arabian or Egyptian government by fundamentalists or Soviet-aided leftists, or a nuclear attack by Pakistan on India. Stepped up American attacks on Libya, forcing it into a more formal alliance with the Soviet Union, might quickly lead to a "super- power" confrontation.
However, the situation most likely to lead to nuclear war is yet another war between Israel and its neighbors. As Arab nations, especially Soviet-client state Syria, approach military parity with American-client state Israel, their demands for the return of Israeli-occupied lands will increase, and the possibility of an invasion of those territories-or an Israeli pre-emptive strike-increases. Should these client states collide, we face the deadly possibility of situations such as American troops killing Russian troops in the Beka Valley of Lebanon, and the escalation of tension resulting from such actions.
There is no peace issue that has caused me greater fear, anger, and despair than the fact that, despite ongoing conventional wars and the strong possibility of nuclear war beginning in the Middle East, there has been, until recently, a near taboo on discussing these issues in the peace movement. Certainly, the complexity of the issues has hindered Middle East organizing. There seems to be no easy answer like "U.S. Out of Vietnam" or "Hands Off Central America." After all, as some argue, might not the United States' withdrawal lead to Soviet dominance of the region, increased power of Muslim fundamentalists, a threat to European and American oil supplies, and the destruction of Israel?
However, I believe these considerations have sparked disproportionate resistance by some individuals and groups to creating a consistent non-intervention and peace policy. Those who hope to influence middle-of-the-road individuals or Democratic Party candidates may not want to be identified with views that might be attacked as pro-Soviet, pro-"terrorist", or anti-Israel. Jewish supporters of Israel, especially, become anxious when Israel is criticized or when the United States' massive military aid to Israel is questioned.
Discussion of Middle East issues has been squelched through refusal to discuss the issues or deflecting attention to other issues, by overwhelming pro-intervention or pro-Israel arguments, and through emotional appeals regarding the importance of Israel to Jews. More extreme measures have included open hostility towards those interested in Middle East issues, questioning of their motives, "red baiting," charges of anti-Semitism (or Jewish self-hate), and threats to withdraw personal and financial support from a peace group or the peace movement.
The personal reactions of individual peace activists to these tactics may range from bewilderment and confusion, to repressed resentment, to open hostility, to cynicism and pessimism about the future of the peace movement. Many activists have been further disheartened by spectacles such as "progressive" political candidate Tom Hayden, with wife Jane Fonda, visiting Israel to support the invasion of Lebanon and "pro-peace", Senators Kennedy, Cranston, and Metzenbaum vigorously applauding Reagan's attack on Libya. However, recent events like Israel's invasion of Lebanon, the growing awareness of Israel's role in supporting repressive regimes in Central America and South Africa, and Reagan's Middle East adventurism have begun to break the taboo on dealing with Middle East issues in the peace movement. Some groups have added these issues to their larger agendas, sponsored speakers, and produced literature. Some, like the Syracuse Area Middle East Dialogue Group, have created discussion groups between Jews, Arabs, and peace activists. And many spoke out against the bombing of Libya.
BREAKING THE SILENCE
In 1985 the American Friends Service Committee and the Mobilization for Survival (“Mobe”) sponsored a major conference on the Middle East called "Breaking the Silence: Mobe is now encouraging activists to organize regional "Breaking the Silence" conferences. In a letter distributed to activist groups, Mobe stressed that a major reason the peace movement had been silent about Middle East issues is that "People are afraid they will touch off controversy, divisiveness and a loss of public support for their organizations."
To deal with these fears, a primary "Breaking the Silence" conference purpose is to "create a safe place in which people would be able to discuss emotionally-charged issues.” A similar but ongoing approach might be for local peace groups to hold workshops to deal with Middle East issues and the emotions they engender. These would emphasize conflict resolution techniques, recognizing that the first principle is not to avoid confrontation, but to welcome opportunities to seek truth and clarify principles. Emphasis would be placed on seeing the partial truth in all positions and maintaining respect for those with whom we disagree.
Participants would be encouraged to understand the emotions the issues arouse. Jewish activist might explore fears of persecution, denial that Israel has committed injustices or hostility towards anyone who questions Israel's actions. Non-Jewish activists might explore fears I of being labeled anti-Semitic, resentment of those who block discussion of Middle East issues, or feelings of dis-empowerment in dealing with non-intervention issues. Moderates might discuss their various fears: of the military consequences of a non-interventionist U.S. foreign policy, of being labeled radical or leftist, or of losing respect or support within their own moderate organizations should they publicly support non-intervention. As emotions are recognized, released, and clarified, activists can find renewed trust, enthusiasm and energy for seeking rational and constructive approaches to peace in the Middle East.
I believe all peace activists must start making the issue of war and peace in the volatile Middle East a top priority. If this does not happen, and if those who support American intervention in the Middle East are allowed to continue to suppress discussion and action, there is little chance that we can build a non- intervention, peace and disarmament movement strong enough to prevent nuclear catastrophe.
In the seventeen years since I wrote the article above, much has
both in Middle East issues and the emotions involved in Middle East
organizing. Yet too much has remained the same--the United States
and Israel still dominate the Middle East and pro-Israel activists
(aided by the pro-Israel media) still find ways
to stifle effective protest by Americans. Frustrated Middle
turn terrorist and plot vengeance against those they consider to be
oppressors. And we all remain potential victims of the accidental
or intentional nuclear destruction that may yet result. (Map
shows how little land -- blue slices of pies -- was owned by Jews in
Palestine in 1948.)
In the spring of 2002, Israel re-occupied the West Bank and Gaza,
much of the Palestinian Authority infrastructure. (See
photos of DC protests.) Many believe that
Sharon's whole policy
has been to provoke Palestinians to terrorism so that Israel would have
an excuse to smash the PA and even drive the rest of the Palestinians
out of Gaza and the West Bank. If so, the Palestinians foolishly
took the bait
SEPTEMBER 11TH - AN EXCUSE TO REV UP
As long predicted, the United State's military dominance of the region caused some fanatical opponents of that dominance to turn to terrorist attacks on military targets and innocent civilians, including inside the U.S. During the 1990s Americans suffered the 1993 World Trade Center attack (allegedly planned in part by a paid FBI informant who once worked for the Egyptian military), the 1996 Kobhar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. However, it took the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to finally get America's attention - and give the neoconservatives in the President George Bush administration the "new Pearl Harbor" they needed to bolster US-Israeli imperialism in the Middle East.
Under Bill Clinton the United States did relatively little to act on evidence that Osama Bin Laden and others were involved in the African embassy and USS Cole attacks. Nor did it take effective steps to protect Americans from potential terrorist attacks. For example, even though the FBI had information about terrorist plans to attack the World Trade Center again, including using airplanes, it did not share this information with the CIA. George Bush never even called a meeting of the terrorism task force during his first 8 months in office!! On September 11th the government was not even able to protect the Pentagon from attack by airplane despite almost than an hour's notice that such attacks were underway in New York. I myself had assumed the bazookas would have been on the roof and the fighter jets buzzing the whole capitol area within minutes of the second airplane attack on the World Trade Center!
Since September 11th the Bush administration, which did little to prevent the attacks, has led a belligerent campaign to root out alleged terrorists worldwide. Of course, "terrorist" seems to be broadly defined as any group or nation that hates American military dominance and could potentially use violence to oppose it. The Patriot Act similarly broadly defines terrorism for domestic groups.
Most upsetting to million of Americans is the perception that the neoconservatives (i.e., alleged conservatives whose first priority is creating a new American empire using military force) surrounding Bush tricked the American people into attack Iraq not because it threatened America but because it threatened Israel. (For names and think tanks and good links see http://geocities.com/neoconsbad) Now that Bush has won the 2004 elections, the neoconservatives are revving up the war engines for U.S.-Israel military attacks on Syria and Iran.
This would be the fulfillment of neoconservatives’ 1996 report written for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu titled “Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” Published by Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies (Israeleconomy.org) and signed on to by now influential Bush administration officials Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, the report boldly stated: "Our claim to the land -- to which we have clung for 2,000 years -- is legitimate and noble." It recommended using Cold War-like propaganda to lure Americans into supporting Israeli ambitions. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon adopted the “Clean Break” vision. So did 30 million "Christian Zionists" who support the expansion of Israel for their own religious purposes. (See numerous articles about the Armageddon Lobby.)
Once neoconservatives took power in the White House, Pentagon and State Department under President George Bush, Sharon made sure that President Bush "got with the program." He visited “born again” Christian President George Bush seven times in two years, becoming the most frequently visiting foreign leader.
Protestations by European allies, China and Russia, or targeted nations (even North Korea's recent nuclear blackmail) have done little to quench the Bush administrations desire for revenge and dominance. Critics doubt the Bush administration's commitment to apprehending the real perpetrators, which is best done through negotiation and diplomacy. And proponents of a non-interventionist foreign policy warn that if the United States does not stop dominating other nations, especially in the Middle East, the next terror attack could be far more devastating and make September 11th a historical footnote. (See relevant links at http://www.libertarians4peace.net)
I myself am still politically involved in Middle East non-intervention and peace issues -- and I still experience the same combination of fear, anger, despair -- and, after all these years of activism, frustration. The good news is that in the peace movement it has become easier to criticize U.S. support for Israel, Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, and the actions of Israel supporters without automatically being attacked as an anti-Semite. Most peace movement and leftist criticism of Israel is done with relative sensitivity since today's activists are well trained in "politically correctness." Libertarians, who call for a totally non-interventionist military policy, tend to be more blunt in their criticisms.
Despite this progress, some Jewish peace activists remain overly protective of Israel, paranoid about its critics and insistent on defining the parameters of "allowed" speech and activism on the topic. Less politically sophisticated gentiles who remain fearful of being labeled anti-Semitic either act within these parameters or seek safety by focusing on less controversial issues of U.S. non-intervention, like the war in Colombia. (See various articles about this at http://www.non-intervention.net)
Where formerly Israel supporters sabotaged anti-interventionist organizing through quickly charging anti-Semitism, today they first use low key guilt tripping techniques or denial or diversion techniques, resorting to accusations of anti-semitism only when particularly frustrated. Big donors who support Israel may make it clear that criticism beyond what they consider proper will mean the end of their donations to organizations. Jewish activists may stake out the "politically correct" position and then use subtle pressure to convince gentiles to go along with it. Often that position is that "the Occupation" is the problem but that Israel has a right to all land confiscated between 1948 up to just before the 1967 war where it conquered the West Bank and Gaza. Sometimes there is even a denial that, for example, Israel wants a war with Iraq or that Israel has or has threatened to use nuclear weapons. Some claim that Israel is merely an off-shore military base or client state of the United States and that it's supporters have little effect on U.S. policies.
Leftist and liberal peace and anti-war movements remain dominated by individuals and groups who believe that "social and economic" justice, often imposed by UN or world government schemes, is the answer to ending war. Anti-capitalists emphasize "No Blood for Oil," when opposing the Iraq oil, but rarely mention the influence of pro-Israel lobbyists, be they neo-conservatives, pro-Zionists or Christian Zionists. Even a group whose goal is ending aid to Israel puts all its energy into boycotting a private company that makes bulldozers, instead of protesting the various interest groups that support aid to Israel! Coincidentally or intentionally, this directs attention away from military and political elites, including supporters of Israel, who support militarism and Israeli and U.S. dominance of the Middle East.
The biggest change since 1986 when I wrote the original article is that today there are hundreds of thousands of young Arab-American activists, second generation, born in America, who are fervently committed to Palestinian rights and opposed to civil liberties abuses like the Patriot Act. These activists are intelligent, educated, articulate, assertive and well-organized and are becoming a motive force in the American peace, non-intervention and civil liberties movements. They work amicably with Jews and gentiles who support their cause. While there may be some ongoing tension between the more conservative Jewish peace activists and Arab-American peace activists, so far relations, when not merely distant, have been conducted in an amicable manner. Nevertheless, even Arab-Americans can find their efforts diffused and mis-directed by pro-Israel activists if they are not careful.
In the libertarian movement pro-Israel supporters are just as blunt in attacking Israel critics, as the critics can be in criticizing Israel. See for example http://www.antiwar.com which includes 4-10 articles critical of Israel military policies, every day, among its dozens of anti-militarism articles.
However, the libertarian movement also has been inflitrated by a small but vocal minority of fanatical and bigoted Ojectivists (followers of Ayn Rand) and Israel supports (some afficianados of the notorious Jewish Defense League) continually promote neoconservative and pro-state of Israel propaganda smearing Muslims as "Islamo-facists." Similarly they smear as "anti-Semite" and try to silence by harassment any libertarian who tries to apply libertarian principles to the state of Israel. Battles between these factions have been fought over the years within a leading libertarian organization, the Libertarian Party. It is a hard core non-interventionist party which opposes government intervention except to protect individuals against force and fraud on American soil. It believes the United States government should defend American soil only and have no troops abroad, supply no foreign military aid, and have no foreign military alliance.
Since the September 11 attacks, more conservative elements in the party have tried to find more excuses for U.S. military intervention in "self-defense" abroad. Those who support Israel have aligned with them. Hard core non-interventionists formed Libertarians for Peace to oppose them. The battle over this issue is in part responsible for the party losing thousands of members from both sides since September 11th. For a detailed exposition on this phenomena see my article, originally published at LibertyforAll.Net entitled "Is Applying Libertarian Principles to Israel Anti-Semitic," as well as links below.
I still believe American anti-war, non-intervention and peace activists -- and even libertarians -- must make the issue of ending aid to Israel and even getting the U.S. military out of the volatile Middle East a top priority. Our very survival may depend on it. Happily, there are a number of groups doing just that, as linked to below. I still am willing to speak out against those who support American intervention in the Middle East, be it actively or tacitly. I encourage those who share this priority to do the same.
A variety of solutions to the Israel-Palestine problem have been proposed, two state, one state, federations and confederations. However, all of them will be easier to implement when Israel no longer can rely on billions of dollars of U.S. military and financial to continue its expansion into Palestinian land and oppression of Palestinian people.
I personally promote a confederation solution where Israelis and Palestinians can have their own communities on justly acquired land which would form their own states, be they Israeli, Palestinian or some third state of mixed, cosmopolitan membership. (These states would have to work together on issues like roadways and water rights, of course.) The Israelis would withdraw to the 15-20 percent that is in fact justly acquired and return the rest to its true owners. Most Palestinians would gladly accept such a solution as long as the Israelis give up their nuclear weapons and stop threatening their neighbors. See a variety of confederation plans, plus maps of the area, at the Israel-Palestine Confederation page.
The solution to terrorism and to oppressive and predatory nations in the Middle East is similar. First stop the U.S. from intervening: bring the troops home, end foreign aid and alliances, make major cuts in the bloated defense budget. U.S. support for some tyrants and attacks on others (some of them former allies) only inflames their people against America. It makes it easier for tyrannical leaders to unite their people behind themselves and against the "Great Satan." Free of U.S. oppression, peoples of the Middle East finally could turn against their most immediate oppressors -- their own governments! Since many of those states also contain separatist religious or ethnic groups, they do should be given the right to self-determination.
News and commentary:
Lists of Dozens
of Israel-Palestine-oriented Peace groups
*Libertarian Murray Rothbard's late 1960s "War Guilt in the Middle East" http://www.mises.org/journals/lar/pdfs/3_3/3_3_4.pdf
*Murray Rothbard "Pat Buchanan and the Menace of Anti-Anti-Semitism" http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch6.html
*"The Real Reason to Oppose Aid to Israel" by Libertarian I. Dean
Ahmad, Ph.D. http://www.minaret.org/israeliaid.htm
*Richard Ebeling "Property Rights and the 'Right of
*Sheldon Richman "'Ancient History: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War Il and the Folly Of Intervention" http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-159.html
*"Cant and The
Middle East" by Sheldon Richman http://www.fff.org/comment/com0205h.asp
*Stephen P. Halbrook's Journal of Libertarian Studies article "The Alienation of a Homeland: How Palestine Became Israel" http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/halbrook.html.* http://www.libertarians4peace.net and http://www.lewrockwell.com have lots of good links
* National Platform of the Libertarian Party, Adopted in Convention, July 2000, Anaheim, CA http://www.lp.org/platform
http://www.netureikarta.org/ AKA http://www.nkusa.org AKA http://www.jewsagainstzionism.com
* Middle East Issues and Emotions: 1986 War Resisters League Article & updated February 2004 version http://carolmoore.net/articles/mideastissuesandemotions.html
* Various decentralist/confederation solutions at: http://www.secession.net/israel-palestine-confederation.html
* Expose of Jewish Defense League http://carolmoore.net/sfm/jdl.html
* "Is Applying Libertarian Priciples to Israel Anti-Semitic?" http://carolmoore.net/libertarianparty/principlesandisrael.html