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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The silent Jewish majority

By Marwan Bishara, June 2nd, 2010
Aljazeera English

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Marwan Bishara asks if those in whose name Israel commits its crimes are going to act and speak out against it.

The Israeli military operation against the humanitarian Gaza convoy has provoked an outcry around the world and within Israel itself...

An increasing number of Jewish activists in Europe and the US are expressing their displeasure - and even anger - over the way in which Israel has evolved in recent years. Some have joined - and even led - solidarity initiatives that aim to lift the siege of Gaza and to end the occupation of Palestine.

But as Israelis begin to question, criticise and even condemn wrong headed Israeli policies, one wonders: Where is the silent Jewish majority in whose name Israel acts?

...A recent article in the New York Review of Books has shed more light on the increased detachment of the influential international Jewish community from Israel and its alienation from the unconditionally pro-Israeli Jewish establishment.

However, the majority of Jews remain silent about the "controversial" policies Israel carries out in their name as a self-declared "state of the Jewish people"...

To gain the moral high ground, Israeli leaders consistently defended their state's "humane" and "democratic" nature.

The best expression of Israel's 'surplus morality' reached the heights of chutzpah when late prime minister Golda Meir defended Israeli crimes by blaming them on the Arabs: "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children ... we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."

But colonial Zionism's attempt to monopolise Judaism and claim its humanism was exposed by some of the most authoritative religious Jewish voices in the country.

The most outspoken critic of Israel, its values and polices was the late Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz. A deeply religious man, he staunchly condemned the Israeli occupation and reportedly accused Israeli soldiers of possessing a Nazi-like mentality.

Avraham Burg, an observant religious Jew who was the head the Jewish Agency and the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has also emerged as a bold critic of destructive or the "eschatological" form of Zionism, suggesting in his eye-opening book, The Holocaust Is Over, that Jews must now rise from its ashes...

Recent events in Israel/Palestine magnified the difference, even the contradiction, between Jewish intellectuals inside and outside of Israel...

Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate along with his close friends Peres and Henry Kissinger, and Bernard Henri Levi, the French 'philosopher', have been vocal in expressing their "love" for Israel and "attachment" to Jerusalem.

They generally defend the practices of the Israeli military in the occupied territories as a "democratic army" who attaches great importance to "purity of arms".

Four decades of military occupation, tens of massacres and tens of thousands of killed Palestinians have done little to dissuade them.

Henri-Levi has been particularly vocal in defence of Israeli and US policies since he became the laughing stock of the Paris intellectual community for his gaffs, not to say hoax as an "impostor". His flip flops in Tel Aviv this week were quite telling.

Likewise, Wiesel, who one Israeli intellectual referred to as the "Holocauster" - the guru of the Holocaust industry - has been staunchly - some say blindly -supporting illegal and bloody Israeli practices in the occupied territories, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.

Interestingly, the sharpest criticism of the resident New Yorker Wiesel came from Jewish residents of Jerusalem...

Diametrically opposed stand the universalists. Richard Falk is a professor of international law and the UN's special rapporteur on Palestine and eminent philosopher Noam Chomsky is considered to be one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century.

(Photo: Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, was part of the recent Gaza flotilla)

Both have consistently stood up and spoken against war crimes everywhere, regardless of the identity of their perpetrators. And they have not shied away from taking a moral stand when that concerns Israel or the US.

They are two of the most vocal liberal humanist voices in the West, indeed the world, condemning the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Israel's wars in Lebanon and Palestine.

Wiesel and Henri-Levi have consistently emphasised their Jewish and Zionist credentials, while Falk and Chomsky uncompromisingly underline their liberal humanism and opposition to colonial Zionism.

Most interestingly, while Wiesel and Henri-Levi get the VIP treatment in Israel, Falk and Chomsky were both denied entry into the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories!

The contrast could not be sharper for the silent and not so silent Jewish majority and, indeed, Western and international public opinion.

Not in our name!

I heard a young Jewish woman activist yesterday on Al Jazeera saying that Israel should no longer be allowed to carry on with its crimes in the name of the Jewish people.

True. What about the silent and alienated Jewish majority!

Many Jews do not want their identity, politics or worldview limited to or identified strictly with their religion and rightly so, especially when they are secular or unbelievers.

But that leaves the door open for those who underline their Jewishness and Zionism as one and the same to be more vocal "representatives" of the Jewish people on Israel.

Remember, just as there is nothing Muslim about terrorism and nothing Christian about genocide, there is also nothing Jewish about colonialism. All religions and peoples should, first and foremost, stand against all crimes carried out in their name.

So once again, where is the silent Jewish majority around the world in whose name Israel commits war crimes and who have a great contribution to make to bringing peace and justice to Israel/Palestine - indeed to the Middle East region?

Also Read:
Message to Muslims and Jews: Political Debate, Yes. Bigotry, No
US progressive Jews condemn Gaza war
Why aren't Jews outraged by Israeli occupation?
Is criticism of Zionism and Israel equivalent to anti-Semitism?

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