Some links sent to me in the last few hours, on Middle East-related topics.
Timothy Egan has a widely-read column up at the New York Times that connects Donald Trump’s threats to minorities with Charles Lindbergh’s threat to Jews in the 1930s. “I’m starting to have some dark fears should Donald Trump become president…. Donald Trump’s reign would be a police state.”
Trump promises to arrest, sort, and deport 11 million people — a number more than 25 percent higher than the entire population of New York City…. In practice, (imagine the viral videos) the new operation would prompt a million Hispanic Anne Franks — people hiding in the attics and basements of Donald Trump’s America.
To go with his Deportation Force, Trump would send another wave of federal authorities out to identify, track and monitor Muslims in America. All of them? He hasn’t said. He’s building his police state on the fly. But in just a few days he went from saying he would “strongly consider” closing houses of worship (mosques), to saying he would have “absolutely no choice” but to shut them down. As for tracking Muslims through some kind a database, he’s been squishy, but also unequivocal, saying, “I would certainly implement that.”
For those fleeing war and religious persecution from the butchers of the Islamic State, sorry if you’re Syrian — Trump would deport those already vetted refugees, mostly women and young children.
OTOH, the New Republic has published a pointless article by Phoebe Maltz Bovy about the dangers of associating the rejection of Syrian refugees with the rejection of Jewish refugees back when. She changes the subject, by turning the problem into a Jewish problem. Let’s not universalize the hatred against Jews, because that might mean forgetting that people hate us.
Consider the assumption that lies at the heart of the comparison: No one today would think to advocate for turning away Jews, right? To which I feel compelled to ask: Are we so sure? Nodding along to the analogy means, in a sense, agreeing that anti-Semitism is over, and that it’s simply been replaced by anti-Muslim bigotry. Which, no—there’s plenty of bigotry to go around!
The right response here is that of Norman Finkelstein’s late mother Maryla, who said the understanding she got from the camps was to decry genocide everywhere, not just the murder of Jews.
Talk about Jewish narcissism, Newsweek has published this piece by Marc Schulman from Tel Aviv saying that Israelis feel alone in their grief because President Obama has spoken of American victims of terrorism in France and Mali but “made absolutely no mention of Ezra Schwartz,” an American yeshiva student who was killed in Gush Etzion settlement last week. No one’s paying enough attention to Israeli victims of terror; and the press talks how many Palestinians Israel has killed, as if there’s an equivalence in the attacks.
On Sunday even this publication (Newsweek) sent out a tweet that would anger any Israeli reader – “Three Palestinians killed in attacks on Israelis as stabbings, shootings and car rammings continue in West Bank.” While the text of this tweet is totally accurate (and similar to many headlines in the press), a quick read first conveys the fact that Palestinians were killed, and only after that the fact that the three Palestinians were killed while trying to kill Israelis.
Of course Schulman does not utter the word occupation. Schwartz was killed in an illegal settlement in the West Bank. That hardly justifies his murder; but as Henry Siegman wrote in the Nation, continuing to deny Palestinians any rights is going to produce violence. That’s how human beings respond.
Being an optimist, I see Schulman’s rage as a sign that the Palestinian narrative is finally getting into the American press. Ordinary people in the U.S. are aware that Palestinians haven’t been treated at all fairly, for decades now.
On that note, here’s an op-ed by Yousef Munayyer in the LA times, puncturing an Israeli’s argument in the same newspaper that Palestinians, and Muslims generally, have some inherent “readiness to justify attacks on civilians,” and once again the media just doesn’t understand.
Munayyer makes the point that the Palestinian support for violence has obvious political causes.
In reality, it is the daily experiences Palestinians have dealt with at the hands of Israel for seven decades that have directly shaped their views on this issue. [Daniel] Polisar paints Palestinians as irrational creatures holding unjustifiable fears about Israeli intentions. He never mentions that the state of Israel has razed more than 400 Palestinian villages, effectively wiping most of the Palestinian presence off the map. He writes not a word about continued colonial expansion in the West Bank through policies of land appropriation, home eviction and house demolition. Palestinians have witnessed Israel take over most of the land they hold dear and destroy thousands of homes, hundreds of villages and their associated houses of worship — and Polisar implies that fears over Israeli intentions in Jerusalem are paranoid and irrational?
Polisar also bemoans Palestinian denialism, this notion of a rejection of a Jewish connection to the land of Palestine. Palestinian denialism, while existent and problematic, is a function of politics. If anything, there’s evidence to show that Palestinians did not deny the Jewish connection to the land until it was used to justify Palestinian dispossession after the creation of modern Israel in 1948. Anyone who looks at the holy books of Palestinians, including the Bible and the Koran, can clearly see Jewish connections to the land throughout…
What shapes Palestinians’ opinion about Jews, Israel and violence is their interaction with Jews, Israel and violence. For Palestinians who have lived under occupation for nearly half a century and in refugee camps or as second-class citizens since 1948, those interactions have consistently resulted in the denial of basic rights, including injury or death. The increasing militarization of Israeli society and the disturbing extremist political viewpoints more easily found in the country’s Parliament only make matters worse.
P.S. The decades-long persecution of Palestinians, licensed by the United States and American Zionists, is obviously a different issue than Trump’s threats against Muslims; and staying in the optimistic vein, I contend that Trump is going nowhere. Egan cites Philip Roth’s book, The Plot Against America, which imagined a Lindbergh presidency. That never happened; and I found the idea to be the self-involved fancy of someone who had experienced very little discrimination in his life. Which is not to say that Islamophobia is a lot like the waves of anti-Semitism in our country in the last century.