As someone who blogs about Israel and Palestine almost daily, I elicit many reactions -- from left-wing supporters and hostile right-wing detractors.
Naturally the two groups don't agree on much of anything but sometimes supporters and detractors make the same mistake: they assume (or charge) that I am anti-Israel. To be fair, it is mostly the right-wing AIPAC types who make that assumption but occasionally my fellow opponents of the occupation make it as well.
Not long ago, I was on Al Jazeera and someone, I think from Damascus, called in to say how gratifying it was to see that there were "anti-Zionist Jews like Mr. Rosenberg" who are fighting to end the occupation.
I quickly corrected him. I told him that I was not anti-Israel. In fact, I am pro-Israel and if I wasn't, I doubt I would be involved so heavily in the fight for justice for the Palestinians.
Surprisingly, the caller said, "Even better. That means you can talk to other Jews to make them understand that being for Palestine does not make you anti-Israel."
And, of course, it doesn't.
To be honest, I exploit the fact that I am not anti-Israel whenever I appear on Arab media, making clear that I believe Israel has the absolute right to full security within the pre-'67 borders or whatever borders are ultimately agreed to in negotiations.
I do that because doing so helps to defuse the negative image many Arabs and some pro-Palestinian people here have about Jews.
Thanks to the pervasive influence of AIPAC and its satellites, they believe that virtually all Jews support the occupation, oppose Palestinian rights and even the rights of Muslims in the United States. By the same token, they believe that Jews who do support the Palestinian cause are either anti-Zionist, anti-Israel, or defectors from the Jewish people.
I see it as part of my mission to change that view which, I think, is both wrong and dangerous for Jews. While the right-wing Jewish organizations worry about a few anti-Semitic placards at "Occupy Wall Street," I worry that the perception that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States will ultimately prove harmful to all Jews here. I also worry that the Muslim world will come to believe that American Jews are all supporters of the occupation and of zealots like the settlers and Binyamin Netanyahu.
Of course, why wouldn't they think that? They see AIPAC and its Congressional cutouts never, ever, deviating from the line laid down by Jerusalem while showing no such deference to an American president. They know that Israel is the only public policy issue in America on which the two parties stand in enforced unity, a unity dictated by the "pro-Israel" lobby and the donors it has at its disposal. They watched President Obama retreat from his pledge to be a Middle East "honest broker" when Netanyahu and AIPAC demanded total 100 percent fealty to Israel.
How are they to know that according to the most comprehensive poll of American Jews, precisely 3 percent cast their votes for president based on attitudes toward Israel while the rest make their choice based on American issues, just like their neighbors.
I have been deeply involved with Israel since 1968 when, as a teenager, I made my first of dozens of visits there. I know the country well. In recent years, I've traveled to Palestine as well, even serving as an official U.S. observer of the 2006 Palestinian national election.
A photograph of the Tel Aviv coast can make my heart beat a little faster. I love the Israel that Tel Aviv -- in particular, north Tel Aviv -- represents (secular, left-wing, gay-friendly, young, and hip). Yes, I know that Tel Aviv is not Israel and that people there are accused of living in a "bubble," partying while Gaza suffers an hour away. But how are they any different from people in Manhattan, Ann Arbor, or West LA? People living in countries that have essentially gone crazy live in bubbles to avoid going crazy themselves.
So, to put it simply, one of the major reasons I despise the occupation, the Netanyahu government, and the lobby (AIPAC) that sustains it through campaign donations to Congress, is because they threaten the existence of the Israel that Tel Aviv represents.
Of course, my love for the "good" Israel is not the only reason I am vehemently opposed to the occupation and its sustainers. I know many Palestinians and I have seen the occupation with my own eyes.
One can argue about whether or not the Gaza blockade is legal or illegal but not over the fact that Israel continuously violates the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). Nor over the fact that war crimes were committed during the 2009 war in Gaza, regardless of what Justice Goldstone says in his next Op-ed. Nor that the policy that inflicts "collective punishment" on the people of Gaza is wrong by any standard.
Nothing I wrote above is anti-Israel. On the contrary, it is precisely because I want Israel to exist in peace and security that I oppose the occupation (and, just as much, the insane idea of bombing Iran which could ultimately lead to the destruction of the entire Israeli state). No, it is the supporters of the occupation and of war with Iran who should defend themselves for advocating policies (and forcing them on the United States) which could destroy Israel, the country and the dream.
It is wrong to believe that those of us who oppose the policies of AIPAC and company are outliers. We aren't. We just aren't as loud as AIPAC, nor -- and more importantly -- do we have the cold cash to lavish on Members of Congress.
And maybe that's our fault.
The week Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president, I told him that I hoped that when he became president he would not ignore the views of Jews like me who want the U.S. to pressure Israel hard to end the occupation for Israel's sake and America's. (He has ignored us, of course).
He responded by cupping his hand on his ear and saying, "if you want me to hear you, speak louder. I hear from AIPAC (he specifically named the AIPAC leader in Chicago) every week." I told him that I'd gladly call him every week!
He repeated: Speak louder.
That is what I try to do. Maybe one day, my friends and I will drown out the self-serving noise (and money) machine that is AIPAC. It doesn't seem likely. But then, who would have imagined Occupy Wall Street?
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