I struggle with something that Israel supporters say: Well you did it to the Native Americans, who are you to tell us not to do it? Some of these hasbarists even show up wearing Indian headdresses and war paint to try and rub it in-- you're as racist as we are. Recently a liberal American-Israeli Zionist even made the dig personally, saying, You live on ethnically-cleansed land. And it's true, I look out my window and see a hickory tree whose nuts Native Americans made liquor from. But they're not here anymore. And my awareness of the ethnic cleansing here sometimes stops me.
Last week I went to a forestry lecture at Columbia University's Earth Institute where I learned a fascinating fact. Lecturer Matt Palmer put up a power-point graphic showing how much of the earth's forests are old growth, never cut down. Around the world old growth constitutes about a third of world forests. In Asia, it's about 15 percent. In Europe, it's 25 percent. In Africa it's about 10 percent (the sub-Saharan rain forest area). In North and Central America it's about 40 percent (think of those untouched Canadian and Rocky Mountain firs). And in South America it's 75 percent.
So 2/3 of the forests in the world were either planted by humans or regrown after being harveste; and environmentalists spend a lot of energy these days trying to stop that figure from getting larger because of the environmental consequences.
The focus is South America, because their reservoir is so large. Rapacious western colonial culture got there relatively late, and the continent is relatively unpopulated.
South Americans can argue, hey, you did it to your forests, why can't we do it to ours? And they'd have a point. They are being held to a higher standard. But history changes, ideas change, notions of justice evolve. It's essential that we behave differently from our ancestors because this issue poses a global crisis. People have now woken up, and carrying on the same activity today will have dire consequences. I believe this argument extends to ethnic cleansing in Palestine. The settlers of my property got away with racism. The global political consequences of such actions today are potentially explosive.