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Dennis Perrin Headshot

Israel/Palestine Debate Is Shifting

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Maybe it's me, but the more I read about Israel's assault on Gaza, the more I'm convinced that the Zionist enterprise is in serious trouble. With each fresh round of bombing, Israel's reputation gets worse, allowing growing numbers of people who might never have said a critical word about that country to finally speak up, if only to friends and family. (I'm excluding racists and anti-Semites, whose vile opinions are disconnected from reality.) I continue to see this on those liberal blogs still talking about Gaza, their commenters increasingly unafraid to voice strong criticism, if not direct condemnation, of Israel's actions. This naturally alarms and frightens those spewing the old fables about "tiny, peace-loving" Israel, driving many of them into rhetorical overkill and incoherence. It may be a small shift online, but it is significant. The full, historical narrative is spreading, and as the Gazan body count rises, perceptions are sharpening. No amount of Israeli PR will reverse this trend.

To someone who first became aware of Israeli aggression in 1982, during the IAF's blitzkrieg of Beirut, such a shift has been a long time coming. Back in those days, championing Palestinian rights was considered by many to be fascistic. Seemingly reasonable people became irate and poisonous at the mere suggestion of Palestinian equality, peddling well-worn excuses for the occupation and ongoing violence. I suppose it was a measure of my masochism that I dove head first into this fray, studying the topic, reading the history, arguing and debating the issue in restaurants, cramped apartments, on radio and at podiums on college campuses. The venom I faced was palpable, and there were a few instances when the arguments nearly came to blows. That I'm not Jewish fed some of my opponents' anger, as they were convinced that I would've made a fine concentration camp guard. That many of my sources and political allies were American and Israeli Jews meant nothing, for they were worse than me. After several intense years of this experience, I retreated from the issue, overweight from drink, depressed by the rancor, convinced that the debate was forever stalled.

In time, I returned to the issue, helped mightily by online access, which has had a positive effect on the overall Middle East debate. Many comments at Daily Kos, Firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald's and Matt Yglesias' sites are encouraging, but not an end in themselves. For while many people are waking up to the reality, there are still those who claim that Palestinians are a Nazi race that deserves annihilation, making asinine, ahistorical comparisons to Hitler's Germany or Hirohito's Japan. Yet, by pushing such bizarre equivalency, those supportive of Israeli violence expose their empty arguments to a large audience. The more people read how Hamas is the modern day version of the Third Reich, then look at the actual facts on the ground, the less seriously they'll take what's considered the "pro-Israel" position. For if you must rely on this type of argumentation, then your shit is already weak, something that is becoming clearer by the day.

This doesn't mean that elite opinion will radically change overnight, especially on the cable nets, where Israeli aggression is routinely hailed. But it does show a new awareness stirring from below. That doesn't bode well for the warmongers and their apologists. They may control us militarily and economically, but their propaganda is fooling less and less people. Resistance is steadily building. Let's put our hope in that, rather than project it on politicians who serve the propagandists.