Wonderful piece by Robert Fowke at the Guardian on “why the obsession”
with Israel and Palestine? Notice the fact that the Jewish presence in the Establishment, in England too, grants the conflict a different weight. Don’t you see– the vociferousness and effectiveness of the Israel lobby make this conflict Our Conflict! Thus does Walt and Mearsheimer’s argument come all the way around: the lobby is lodged in our establishment, which is why the establishment press tried to destroy Walt and Mearsheimer, and that created giant pushback among all the people who have been lied to.
Fowke’s curve is my curve. I didn’t begin as a Palestinian solidarity activist. No, I began as an American appalled by Iraq; and then I found the three Zionist bears in the kitchen and started to wonder… Fowke:
There is another aspect to my relationship to Jews, however, which does significantly affect the interest I take in Israel. I have many Jewish friends, I went to school with boys from Jewish backgrounds and consequently I do not think of Jews as being foreign. It would be as absurd for me to call my Jewish friends foreign as it would to call my Quaker friends foreign; they are as English as I am. It is a religious category for me and nothing more, and quite rightly so.
The trouble is that Israel promotes itself as the state for all Jews, including – despite themselves – my friends. And because some of my friends are Jews and it is therefore their country, it is in some subliminal sense my country too. This produces a particular attitude towards Israel – it means that I do not think of Israel as truly foreign either. It is foreign, of course, but not emotionally, not like Thailand or Uzbekistan, and I do not respond to it as I do to most other foreign states. It is, emotionally, almost an English county planted on the Mediterranean shores.
Israel’s non-foreign status is amplified by the extraordinary support it enjoys in the corridors of power in Britain. As many as 80% of Tory MPs are members of Conservative Friends of Israel. The same cannot be said for Conservative friends of Thailand or Uzbekistan.
So not only is it in effect an English county, but many of my rulers appear to be its devoted citizens, subjectively speaking. All those shrill arguments over water or settlements, all that killing, all that fear and loathing, are not far away from me at all, no further away than Belfast.
So I judge this by domestic standards, not foreign ones. I do not expect Israelis to behave like Burmese generals; I expect them to behave like Englishmen, like my friends.
Supporters of Israel complain frequently and loudly that they are singled out for special attention and criticism. What about your own country’s misdeeds, or China’s, they say? And they are right. Israel is singled out for special attention. The Tibetans scarcely get a look-in compared to the Palestinians.
The number of news items about Israel-Palestine has created a self-reinforcing cycle – my appetite for yet more items is whetted by each new article or drama. All of which would appear to vindicate the complaints of the pro-Israel lobby – except that they should consider how they themselves contribute to this.
One reason why Israel is singled out for so much attention is because its supporters are so very vociferous, pushing their agenda at every opportunity. As a consumer of news, the speed of their responses and their sheer ubiquity inflames my interest and my antipathy. Why do they persist in trying to defend the indefensible?
Another reason for my disproportionate interest in this conflict is that I feel I have been lied to, and I feel that people are still trying to lie to me and I don’t like it.