On August 4, 2010, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine and chair of the Interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, published an article in Sabbah Report, entitled “Shame on ADL for Opposing Mosque 2 Blocks from Ground Zero.”
Rabbi Lerner’s position on the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) objection to building an Islamic Community Center in Manhattan, near Ground Zero is praiseworthy. But his interpretation of ADL’s reasons for resisting such a project lacks insight. ADL leader Abe Foxman’s statement: “In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” spells out the real reasons behind the decision. That decision cunningly reinforces the notion that Muslim fundamentalists were behind the attacks of 9/11 – a position also perpetrated by the architects of those attacks.
Rabbi Lerner’s statement: “It was not ‘Muslims’ or Islam that attacked the World Trade Center, but some Muslims who held extreme versions of Islam and twisted what is a holy and peace-oriented tradition to justify their acts and their hatred,” echoes George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 20, 2001, whereby the blame for 9/11 was put on “a fringe form of Islamic extremism … that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.” Unfortunately, both positions – the first, explicitly, the second, apologetically – demonize Islam.
As rightly noted by Jack G. Shaheen in his book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilified a People (see also, Reel Bad Arabs – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5), a consistent stereotype of Arabs and their religion existed since the earliest, most obscure days of Hollywood. Perhaps, this was the continuation of European fascination with Orientalism. However, in the hands of Hollywood, it acquired a new malicious bend that increased proportionally with the number of Jewish entrepreneurs in Hollywood. Arabs were typically presented as rich and stupid, and their Western captives as victims of prejudice, manipulation and oppression. This pattern was further exploited by Zionists to include violence and acts of terrorism.
In 1993 Foreign Affairs published an article by Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington entitled: “The Clash of Civilizations?” that expanded into a book with the same title in 1996. The article endorsed the idea that “during the Cold War, the world was divided into the First, Second and Third Worlds.” According to Huntington, “those divisions … [were] no longer relevant”: “It is far more meaningful now to group countries not in terms of their political or economic systems or in terms of their level of economic development but rather in terms of their culture and civilization.” “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.”
Amplifying the “differences among civilizations,” Huntington emphasized the role played by history, language, culture and tradition. According to Huntington, differences of religion are the most important among cultural discrepancies: “Even more than ethnicity, religion discriminates sharply and exclusively among people. A person can be half-French and half-Arab and simultaneously even a citizen of two countries. It is more difficult to be half-Catholic and half-Muslim.” Huntington identified seven or eight major civilizations including “Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African,” predicting that the most important conflict will occur “along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another”: “The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”
According to Huntington, the same “fault lines” will replace the “political and ideological boundaries of the Cold War as the flash points for crisis and bloodshed”: “… Conflicts between groups in different civilizations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilization.” Huntington identifies these conflicts as “the most likely and most dangerous source of escalation that could lead to global wars.” “The West and the Rest” in Huntington’s prediction of future clashes amounts to a conflict between “the West and several Islamic-Confucian states.” Islam is not identified as the single source of conflict; rather it appears in juxtaposition with Confucian civilization. Yet, Huntington’s reliance on the opinions of Indian Muslim author M. J. Akbar – “The West’s ‘next confrontation’ … ‘is definitely going to come from the Muslim world” – allows him to ignore the advice of Bernard Lewis, whose article “The Roots of Muslim Rage” inspired his title.
Bernard Lewis’ statement: “We are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations – the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both,” quoted by Huntington, had a continuation: “It is crucially important that we on our side should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational reaction against that rival” – that was perhaps more relevant for the argument than the emphasis on the clash of civilizations. This statement and the embedded advice were ignored by Huntington. Instead, Huntington sites historical and modern factors to promote the idea that a “bloody” clash between Western and Islamic civilizations is imminent: “Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1,300 years.”
A superficial overview of history allows him to state that “Islam has bloody borders.” This statement, notoriously emphasizing a civilizational conflict between “Islam and the West,” became the credo of Zionists like Steven Emerson, whose crusade against Muslims conveniently took yet another turn – anti-Muslim attitudes were camouflaged as anti-terrorist sentiments. Emerson’s 1994 PBS video, Jihad in America “was faulted for bigotry and misrepresentations.” Robert Friedman accused Emerson of “creating mass hysteria against American Arabs.” Emerson accused Bill Clinton for “legitimizing self-declared ‘civil rights’ and ‘mainstream’ Islamic organizations that in fact operated as propaganda and political arms of Islamic fundamentalist movements.” He went as far as to declare that “Muslim terrorist sympathizers were hanging out at the White House.”
Conveniently ignoring the growing problem of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel and the United States (see, “The Ugly Face of the Zionist Jihad: The Halachic Guide for the Killing of Gentiles”), and typically prefacing his “diatribes” by stating that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims, Emerson blacklisted Islam by espousing in a deliberate assault against it: “The level of vitriol against Jews and Christianity within contemporary Islam, unfortunately, is something that we are not totally cognizant of, or that we don’t want to accept. We don’t want to accept it because to do so would be to acknowledge that one of the world’s great religions – which has more than 1.4 billion adherents – somehow sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.”
After the events of 9/11, a few of Emerson’s earlier comments acquired the status of “prophesy.” In 1994 he claimed that radical Muslims in the United States were plotting the “mass murder of all Jews, Christians and moderate Muslims.” In 1996 he attacked the Council on Foreign Relations for including “Muslim points of views” in its newsletter. And finally, in1997 he warned that “the U.S. has become occupied fundamentalist territory.”
The anti-Muslim rhetoric of the “grand inquisitor” acquires a new meaning, when one considers Emerson’s “friends.” Yigal Carmon, “a right-wing Israeli intelligence commander, who endorsed the use of torture” stayed in Emerson’s Washington apartment during his trips “to lobby Congress against Middle East peace initiatives.” A retired CIA counterterrorism specialist Vince Cannistraro said that Emerson’s allies, Pomerantz, Revell and Carmon were “Israeli-funded.” “How do I know that?” Cannistraro explained – “Because they tried to recruit me.” Cannistraro’s assertions were vehemently denied, but others suspected Israeli backing as well. Jerusalem Post of September 17, 1994 noted that Emerson had “close ties to Israeli intelligence,” Mossad, whose director reported only to the Israeli Prime Minister.
Hollywood’s groundwork was certainly useful to all that planned on instigating a clash of civilization between Muslims and non-Muslims. Huntington’s civilizational conflict between “Islam and the West” became the cornerstone of Zionist propaganda. But long before the establishment of Israel, the Zionist intellectual Maurice Samuel in his You Gentiles of 1924 polarized the Gentile and the Jewish worlds: “There are two life-forces in the world I know: Jewish and Gentile, ours and yours … Your outlook on life, your dominant reactions, are the same to-day as they were two thousand years ago. All that has changed is the instrument of expression” (pp. 19-20). Samuel admits that the “surface credo of a Jewish faith” imposed on a Gentile way of life did not make a fundamental difference: “But in the end your true nature works itself into the pattern of the borrowed faith, and expresses itself undeniably” (p. 22).
According to Samuel there is a “clear and fateful division of life – Jewish and Gentile,” with an “unsounded abyss between” them. Gentiles have a “way of living and thinking” that is distinctly different from Jews: “I do not believe that this primal difference between gentile and Jew is reconcilable. You and we may come to an understanding, never to a reconciliation. There will be irritation between us as long as we are in intimate contact. For nature and constitution and vision divide us from all of you forever…” (pp. 22-23).
Samuel’s description provides a classic example of a real “clash of civilizations.” The notion of a clash also fits Samuel’s final solution, based on the destruction of the existing world order: “A century of partial tolerance gave us Jews access to your world. In that period the great attempt was made, by advance guards of reconciliation, to bring our two worlds together. It was a century of failure. … We Jews, we, the destroyers, will remain the destroyers forever. Nothing that you will do will meet our needs and demands. We will forever destroy because we need a world of our own, a God-world, which it is not in your nature to build” (p. 155).
The modern equivalent of Samuel’s “God-world” and “destroyers” is religiously motivated terrorism – the accusation conveniently hurled at Muslims. After 9/11 – a false flag operation, no doubt – every Mossad-induced terrorist hoax, from shoe-bombers to crotch-bombers, is blamed on Muslims. Meanwhile, terrorist attacks on civilians of a humanitarian aid ship are dubbed as self-defence. There certainly is a clash of civilizations, witnessed by its concomitant double standard. But the clash is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, as the Zionists claim. Rather, the real clash, as Samuel described so promptly, is between Jews and Gentiles. The bogus clash, conveniently induced through tags like “Islam has bloody borders,” is of Zionist origin. It fits the Zionist strategy of demonizing Islam, and is an expedient cover for the real clash between Jews and Gentiles.
There is no question that the United States has a relationship with Israel that has no parallel in modern history. Washington gives Israel consistent, almost unconditional diplomatic backing and more foreign aid than any other country. In other words, Israel gets this aid even when it does things that the United States opposes, like building settlements. Furthermore, Israel is rarely criticized by American officials and certainly not by anyone who aspires to high office. Recall what happened last year to Charles Freeman, who was forced to withdraw as head of the National Intelligence Council because he had criticized certain Israeli policies and questioned the merits of the special relationship.
Steve Walt and I argue that there is no good strategic or moral rationale for this special relationship, and that it is largely due to the enormous influence of the Israel lobby. Critics of our claim maintain that the extremely tight bond between the two countries is the result of the fact that most Americans feel a special attachment to Israel. The American people, so the argument goes, are so deeply committed to supporting Israel generously and unreservedly that politicians of all persuasions have no choice but to support the special relationship.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has just released a major study of how the American public thinks about foreign policy. It is based on a survey of 2500 Americans, who were asked a wide variety of questions, some of which have bearing on Israel. Their answers make clear that most Americans are not deeply committed to Israel in any meaningful way. There is no love affair between the American people and Israel.
This is not to say that they are hostile to Israel, because they are not. But there is no evidence to support the claim that Americans feel a bond with Israel that is so strong that it leaves their leaders with little choice but to forge a special relationship with Israel. If anything the evidence indicates that if the American people had their way, the United States would treat Israel like a normal country, much the way it treats other democracies like Britain, Germany, India, and Japan.
Consider some of the study’s main findings:
“Contrary to the long-standing, official U.S. position, fewer than half of Americans show a readiness to defend Israel even against an unprovoked attack by a neighbor. Asked whether they would favor using U.S. troops in the event that Israel were attacked by a neighbor, only 47 percent say they would favor doing so, while 50 percent say they would oppose it …This question was also asked with a slightly different wording in surveys from 1990 to 2004 (if Arab forces invaded Israel). In none of these surveys was there majority support for an implicitly unilateral use of U.S. troops.”
Americans “also appear to be very wary of being dragged into a conflict prompted by an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In this survey, conducted in June 2010, a clear majority of Americans (56%) say that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran”
“While Americans have strongly negative feelings toward the Palestinian Authority … a strong majority of Americans (66%) prefer to ‘not take either side’ in the conflict.”
“There is some tangible worry regarding the direction of relations with Israel. Although 44 per-cent say that relations with Israel are “staying about the same,” a very high 38 percent think relations are ‘worsening,’ and only 12 percent think they are ‘improving’.”
“Americans are not in favor of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a major sticking point in the conflict, with 62 percent saying Israel ‘should not build’ these settlements.”
Finally, only 33 percent of those surveyed feel that Israel is “very important” to the United States, while 41 percent said it was “somewhat important.” It is also worth noting that on the list of countries that were said to be “very important” to the United States, Israel ranked fifth behind China, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. Of course, all of those countries have a normal relationship with the United States, not a special relationship like the one Israel has with Washington.
The data in the Chicago Council’s study is consistent with the data that Steve and I presented in our book and in countless public talks. The story remains the same.
The bottom line is that the lobby is largely responsible for America’s special relationship with Israel, which is harmful to both countries. Alan Dershowitz was spot on when he said, “My generation of Jews … became part of what is perhaps the most effective lobbying and fund-raising effort in the history of democracy.”
There is an overriding reality that cannot be dismissed here in Palestine. Israel controls just about every aspect of our lives. No matter how we try to turn it around, candy coat it or look at it from a “different perspective” this is the truth and the main reason why no partial agreement will ever hold.
One only has to travel in the occupied Palestinian territories to know this to be true. Over the Eid Al Fitr – the Muslim holiday following the month of Ramadan – the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem (itself only a recent reality) was jam packed to kingdom come. People spent literally two, three and four hours trying to make their way out of a one-kilometer area because the Israelis had decided to block all traffic going out of Ramallah towards Jerusalem. It did not matter that people had plans, needed to get back to their children and parents or in the worst case scenario, get to a hospital. As the iron gate opened in the separation wall at Qalandiya, a group of young Israeli soldiers stood with their weapons cocked and smirks across their faces as they watched desperate Palestinians trying to inch their way out of the mess. Rather than the [Israeli] authority responsible for the chaos trying to alleviate the situation, instead young Palestinian men exited their cars and tried to direct traffic.
It is not only the traffic and checkpoints Israel controls. Palestinians across the West Bank are plagued by water shortages. In my Ramallah-area village, the water is cut off four of the seven days a week. Families have to ration out the water usage because if tanks are emptied there is absolutely no way to fill them again until the water comes back on. This is not because there is no water in the West Bank, contrary to common belief. According to a report issued by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, Israel controls and exploits 80 percent of ground water from the Mountain Aquifer, which is the largest water source in the region. The remaining 20 percent is basically leftovers distributed among the Palestinian population.
To give a more concrete idea of just how much Israel controls the water resources and distributes it to its own people’s benefit, according to the World Health Organization in 2008, the minimal daily consumption per capita should be 100 liters. In Israel, the per capita consumption reaches 242 liters while the Palestinians consume an average of 73 liters a day. In some places, the WHO says, Palestinian consumption is as low as 37 liters.
Settlers illegally living on Palestinian land have no shortage of water. Just pass by a Jewish settlement, past the lush greenery and the swimming pools and it’s more than obvious that Jewish settlers never have to think about whether they will have enough water to shower or not. Reports have indicated that in places like the Jordan Valley, Jewish settlers use up to six times more water than Palestinians living in the same place.
So, when the Palestinians say they are not continuing with peace talks if Israel continues building in settlements, this is hardly an unreasonable demand. On the contrary, this is the least of the least they can demand given the detrimental effects settlements have had and continue to have on the Palestinians.
Right now, as the negotiating parties head to Sharm Al Sheikh for the second round of peace talks launched in Washington on September 2, Israel is already casting blame on the other side. It is calling the Palestinians’ demand that Israel renew it settlement freeze – already severely riddled with flaws – an “all or nothing strategy” which could ultimately derail any peace efforts. Israel is portraying the Palestinians as the intransigent party for their very legitimate demand of halting settlement construction. Many Palestinians even see this as way too little and a lot too late, saying the leadership should demand nothing less than a complete halt to settlement construction and a dismantlement of settlement structures in accordance with international law.
However, Israel has no plans of relinquishing its settlement enterprise in the West Bank for one reason, which is its control of the land and consequently of the oppressed people living on it. Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967 Israeli governments have encouraged settlement growth by offering enticing economic incentives such as subsidized housing and reduced utility expenses. By keeping a presence in the West Bank through its settlements, the bypass roads, separation wall and the checkpoints such as Qalandiya, it maintains complete control over the populace, all under the false guise of its own security.
While Israel continues its rants about how the Palestinians are unreasonable and are placing obstacles in the way of peace, it is worthwhile to remind the world what it is like to live under occupation. Control and oppression is multi-faceted. Israel’s military presence and confrontations with the occupying army are definitely important features of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem but they are not the only ones. The overall control Israel wields over Palestinian lives is suffocating because it is so comprehensive. Leaving and entering the country is controlled by Israel, entering Jerusalem, working inside the Green Line, exporting and importing goods, building a house, tending to your land (if you have access to it) and even the amount of water you are allowed to consume are all controlled by the mighty hand of Israel’s occupying power.
So, before blame is laid or the world judges us too quickly, let us all remember the overriding reason we are at the negotiating table at all. Then after the occupation is duly mentioned, just imagine spending four hours trying to get home from a 45 minute trip only to find no water for your shower.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.