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Maybe I’m just oversensitive about the War on Muslims, but I have some minor problems with parts of this generally excellent essay. Scroll to the bottom to see my reply to Steve.
Mutually Assured Survival Or Mutually Assured Destruction? The Jewry is Still Out
by Steve Bhaerman
Last year during one of my comedy performances, someone asked the Swami, “What do you think about AIPAC?”
The Swami -- being the Swami -- answered, “AIPAC? I don’t know about AIPAC. I’m more into Deepak. And Tupac. Gimme Deepak, Tupac and a six-pack, and you can keep your AIPAC.”
Well, the audience liked the answer, but my serious side wasn’t satisfied. I’d been hearing disparaging remarks about AIPAC, which stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but I had dismissed them as fringy, anti-semitic fulminations. The more I’ve read since then, however, the more I realize that this organization -- supported by many well-meaning Jewish people because it is “pro-Israel” -- is really a neocon front that hardly represents the majority of the Jewish people, let alone the people of Israel.
Just as George Bush and company have tried to pull the “you’re either with us or against us” wool over our eyes, AIPAC and its posse define anti-semitism as any questioning of Israeli’s policies no matter how questionable. They’ve tried to silence non-Jewish critics with the anti-semitic smear, and Jewish ones by calling them “self-hating Jews.” As a Jewish American, I have come to the sad and disturbing conclusion that AIPAC is why we’re still in Iraq and why we are now set to attack Iran. You’ve only to look at the news story about the recent AIPAC conference <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.rf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hillnews.com%2Fleading-the-news%2Fpelosi-hears-boos-at-aipac-2007-03-13.html>
and the unenthusiastic response Nancy Pelosi received for not being sufficiently pro-war. Opening our eyes to AIPAC’s power and influence makes it easier to understand why Congressional Democrats backed off of their stand to make an attack on Iran contingent on the approval of Congress.
As the world seems to be hurtling toward that self-fulfilling prophecy called “armageddon,” the forces of fear and destruction seem to be polarizing to either side, each desperately trying to make sure that their evildoers will be able to out evil-do the evildoers on the other side. I like to consider myself a realist. As the old saying goes, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone following you.” So -- just because our Middle East policies are fear-driven, greed-driven, misguided, obsolete and dangerous -- doesn’t mean that there aren’t toxic Islamic forces hell-bent on the destruction of Israel.
Try to imagine what it must feel like to know that the enemy that has vowed to destroy you has the power to launch weapons of mass destruction. Feel that, and you can empathize with civilians in Israel -- and Iran.
For in their fear for their own lives and destruction, many Israelis feel resigned to preemptively doing the same to the Iranians. Same old “us or them.”
From M.A.D. to Madder
For nearly 45 years, the Cold War was kept on ice because of an eerie Strangelovian concept called “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).” With both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. overarmed to teeth, if any one side pushed the button, both sides would assuredly perish. Whether it was that delicate balance of power and fear or some other form of divine grace, no button was pushed and we are still here to be grateful.
But there is no such balance of power today. As the last superpower standing after the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has super-abused its superpowers. Instead of following the advice of former Senator Gary Hart and treating terrorist cells like a criminal gang instead of a military force, we have squandered any good will we might have had left and have shown the entire world that we’re not in the Middle East to keep the peace, we’re there to keep the pieces. Of course, this is not the intent of the majority of Americans, nor is it the intent of the majority of Israelis. However with the neocons in control of both countries -- and with AIPAC successfully muzzling most dissent against Israeli policies, or marginalizing it as “anti-semitic” -- our two countries together are drawing the battle lines for an insane and unnecessary world war that will lead to countless deaths, not to mention irreparable ecologic harm.
Here’s how the real balance of power stacks up. On one side, we have the “kill or be killed,” “dominate or be dominated” world view, the one that has persisted for thousands of years and brought the world to the brink of destruction. Everything about this side sounds rational at first hearing because we humans habitually associate “normal” with “sane.” But rationality has been replaced with rationalization, which goes something like this: The world is a bad place. It’s always been that way, and always will be. We have to protect ourselves. We sincerely regret any unnecessary deaths -- of course, we will only do “surgical strikes” designed not to harm civilians, and besides those people hate us anyway.
Under this umbrella of self-protection, any violation of human rights, human decency, rule of law and morality is permitted as long as it can be rationalized as a “necessary evil.” Even better if it can be done in secret and can be officially denied. That way, there can be the illusion of democracy, justice and living by spiritual principles. Of course anything built on a foundation of lies is destined to crumble and that accounts for the disheartenment both in America and Israel. The “self-protection” clause also means you can buddy up with “allies” who violate the very essence of who you are and who you believe yourself to be.
Check out this audio recording <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.sf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aipac.org%2FAudioFiles%2FBenjamin_Netanyahu_PC_3-12-07.mp3> featuring Rev. John Hagee’s speech <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.tf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.prospect.org%2Fweb%2Fpage.ww%3Fsection%3Droot%26name%3DViewPrint%26articleId%3D11541> at this spring’s AIPAC conference. <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.uf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aipac.org%2Fabout_AIPAC%2FLearn_About_AIPAC%2F2841.asp>
In fact, check out all the speeches, but particularly Rev. Hagee’s whose intolerant beliefs are now tolerable because he supports Israel and in fact has asserted that the Book of Esther predicts the very attack on Iran that is soon to be launched. But hey, this is about self-preservation so it really doesn’t matter which devils you sleep with, as long as they’re on your side now.
That’s one world view, the one that is considered “mainstream” in our society, despite any “naive” moral objections the rest of us may have.
There’s a second world view, however, the same one put forth by spiritual teachers from Buddha to Jesus, and is at the bottom of every religion once the bullshit is boiled away. That world view insists that there is such a thing as a common humanity, and we are all in it together. It seems to be contrary to the “evidence,” because if you look at human history -- well, it’s more like inhuman history. However, when you consider how this evidence has been spun and is being spun, and how war is used to justify more war, it’s easier to see how 80% to 90% of us get manipulated by a small group of manipulators who know how to press the buttons marked “fear” “survival” “patriotism” and “tribal loyalty.”
This alternative world view that we’re all in it together is the foundation of mutually-assured survival rather than the deadly alternative. It also reflects the heart essence of Judaism, Tikkun Olam -- the healing of the world.
This notion of bringing healing to this world is in direct contradiction of Rev. Hagee, who subscribes to the “We’re going to heaven and everyone else can go to hell” insanity.
Which brings us -- finally -- to the purpose of this email. My friend Diane Perlman, a political psychologist and activist has formed a new organization, JAIPAC (Jewish Analysts Investigating Peace and Conflict), and has written a compelling letter under the title: The New Pro-Israel, Mutually Assured Survival.
There are indeed real problems and real conflicts in the Middle East, and Diane turns her wisdom and experience towards alternative ways of addressing them -- instead of doing what we’ve always done and being surprised when things are like they’ve always been, only worse. Please read and circulate this letter.
Can We Stop the Ticking Toxin in Time?
Reports from Soviet intelligence say that the United States plans to bomb Iran <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.xf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fenglish.sabah.com.tr%2F2A15713494FA4189ACBEC7C0ACEE090A.html>
on April 6th, less than ten days from now. Was the information purposely released to give the Iranian government one more chance to drop the program? Was it released by the Soviets to alert the world? Is it a bluff? We don’t know. We do know that this Administration is in deep trouble and has demonstrated that it will do anything -- anything -- to promote its own survival. An escalation of the state of war could empower them to declare a martial law state of “emergency.” It would be risky for them, but then again their ass is just about grass anyway.
The purpose of prediction isn’t panic, but prevention. I contend that had the voting fraud story not broken through the “soundless barrier” via RFK, Jr.’s Rolling Stone article <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.a4pyawbab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rollingstone.com%2Fnews%2Fstory%2F10432334%2Fwas_the_2004_election_stolen>
last summer, people wouldn’t have been aware of it, and the election results would have been different. Say what you will about the worminess of the Democratic Party, Congressional investigations are now going forward that will necessitate impeachment. So I am putting this email out in the hopes of averting the possibility of the Iran attack.
I am hoping that Jewish people of conscience allow themselves to lift the lid on AIPAC and ask themselves if AIPAC represents their true values. Here is a link <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.yf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nybooks.com%2Farticles%2F20030> to the upcoming issue of New York Review of Books where George Soros -- a key Democratic Party funder of Jewish heritage -- takes on AIPAC. I wish there was some kind of concerted action that would make a difference in preempting this preemptive war. Perhaps the field of awakening will be enough, perhaps it won’t. Maybe there needs to be a letter-writing -- real mail, not email -- campaign to key members of Congress. Perhaps we need to follow the lead of former army Colonel Ann Wright <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.zf9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.truthout.org%2Fdocs_2006%2F021307B.shtml>who has urged the military to “refuse to drop bombs” if ordered to in Iran. The influence of the military <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=amhbc5bab.0.9f9ec5bab.dkbdftbab.541&ts=S0232&p=http%3A%2F%2Fpatriotsquestion911.com%2F%23About> cannot be underestimated at this time, particularly when we consider the loss of support for the current war on the part of troops in the field, not to mention the extraordinary editorials in all the official military publications the day before Election Day calling for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation.
When I was a kid, one of the things that made me proudest of my heritage was the willingness of Jews to be a stand for the rights of all, not just Jewish people. You may remember that two of those three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi in 1964 were Jewish, but what you may not know is that the NAACP was co-founded by Joel Elias Spingarn, a Jew. These days, the cry of “never again” no longer means never again a holocaust for anyone, but “never again for the Jews.” This is an understandable nationalist sentiment, but it contradicts the spiritual foundation of Judaism.
This is a hugely challenging time for all peoples. How much easier it would be for a Messiah to come down and declare himself “the only Universal Law south of the Pleiedes,” or for the nasty machinations of empire to work their nastiness without our ever having to know about it. How much easier for us to immerse ourselves in reality TV so we don’t have to engage reality, or insist we “create our own reality” without coming to grips with the reality we all share.
As with every religion, there comes a time when we have to distinguish between the spiritual essence, and the distortion being used to keep the powers that be in power in power. Or, as some wit once said, “Spirituality is our relationship with the Divine. Religion is crowd control.” I hope this article and the connected links provide plenty of cognitive dissonance for both Jews and non-Jews alike. Which do we choose -- mutually assured survival, or mutually assured destruction? Given the delicate balance of life on earth at this point, the zero-sum game of “me or you” may end up as a big zero for all humanity and an F in works and plays well with others.
P.S. I expect lots of letters telling me I’m a self-hating Jew (with plenty of evidence of how Israel is absolutely right and justified), and other letters accusing me of being a zionist (including tons of evidence of how Jews have been responsible for any and all evil since the beginning of history). Please spare me these. I’ve read plenty on both sides already. Please DO send me any links to organizations and actions designed to preempt the preemptive strike on Iran. These will be sent to this list later this week. Meanwhile, pray for healing even if you’re an atheist. As Swami says, “Who cares whether you believe in God? What really matters is, do you believe in Good?”
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Kevin Barrett replies:
Great work, Steve!
AIPAC pressuring the Dems to remove the "consult Congress before you nuke Iran" rider is just so over-the-top....
To those of us who see Zionist-occupied Palestine in about the same way as French-occupied Algeria, Afrikaaner-occupied South Africa, British-occupied Kenya and Rhodesia, etc.--though far worse given the symbolic value of the real estate--your piece, like those of Rabbi Lerner, seems to obfuscate the clear and obvious distinction between perpetrator and victim, and to remove the conflict from its Euro-colonial context. In particular the phrase "toxic Islamic forces hell-bent on the destruction of Israel" would seem to dehumanize people like me, who (a) happen to be Muslim, (b) support the Palestinian resistance just as we supported the South African and Vietnamese resistance, and (c) are convinced that the only workable solution is regime change in Tel Aviv from a "Jewish state" to a country with an Equal Protection clause that obeys the UN resolutions dictating return of the 1948 refugees--in short, decolonization.
Why are Muslims who support the decolonization of Palestine "toxic" ? Would you say that about the heroic Algerian people, and their many Muslim and non-Muslim supporters, who sacrificed a million lives to free Algeria from more than a century of Euro-colonial occupation? The Libyans, who lost half their population fighting Mussolini's colonizers? The Iraqi people and their supporters who are resisting a brutal imperial occupation there? Are the Vietnamese people "toxic Buddhists" for ejecting the French, then the Americans? Were the Native Americans who resisted the Euro-colonial invasion "toxic animists" ? Aborigines who resisted the Brits "toxic walkabouters"?
I try to avoid using loaded religious language like "toxic Jews" to describe pro-Zionists (perpetrators) and would recommend that you do the same when referring to supporters of the Palestinians (victims).
PS Please note that all this is my personal opinion, that MUJCA is meant to be a site of dialogue, and that I welcome and even desperately desire dialogue with thoughtful pro-Zionists, no matter how wrong (or "toxic") I think their opinions are! My struggle is to stop the vicious circle by which anti-Zionists dehumanize Zionists and vice-versa. If there is to be a compromise solution, it will come after the mutual-dehumanization cycle ends. People can be wrong without being toxic!