Public Comment

Listening To Both Sides

By Harry S. Pariser
Thursday July 30, 2009 - 11:14:00 AM

As a frequent visitor to the East Bay from San Francisco, I make a point of picking up your publication regularly. In the latest issue, I was amazed at the number of diatribes against Palestinians and “self-hating Jews.” I am perplexed by the negative energy channeled towards your publication just because you have dared to air dissenting (and therefore apparently unpalatable) views. 

Because I live in the Bay Area, I am privileged to listen to such programs on KPFA as Flashpoints, Democracy Now, and other news programs that give more than just the blind pro-Zionist viewpoint. And I’ve read such excellent books as Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (penned by two Jews) and Helen Nathan’s The Other Side of Israel and such documentaries as James Langley’s Gaza Strip. In addition, I’ve read many of the excellent columns by Gideon Levy in Haaretz and am a regular reader of Robert Fisk, who has regularly reported from the Middle East for decades. 

I think that all of us understand that there are many nasty, corrupt Palestinians—just as there are many nasty, corrupt Israelis and many nasty, corrupt U.S. citizens. On the other hand, there is no comparison in scale between the most severe attacks by the Palestinian resistance has done with the horrors and devastation visited on Lebanon and Gaza by the Israeli military. Inside Israel itself, there are many who will acknowledge this. Palestinians lack bombers, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, the bulldozers to demolish homes and thousand-year-old olive trees, the ability to construct huge walls, and the ability to search Israelis and Israeli homes at will. Nor do they have hundreds of nuclear warheads. Or receive an astonishing $3 billion in U.S. aid every year. 

In short, the power disparity between the two sides is so large as to make any comparison impossible. The Palestinians today are largely a product of a half-century of misguided Israeli policies. Unfortunately, many American Jews (both secular and religious) have all too often given the Israeli government a pass. Some have done this because they are neoconservatives; some because they are uninformed or misinformed or both; and some because they have sensed this is the prevailing view, and they go with the flow. Baah! 

I would urge ardent Zionists to reconsider their carte blanche endorsement of the path Israel is ploughing. Thus far (as with Western policies in the Middle East as a whole) these have proven disastrous. Of these, the illegal settlements stand out as particularly wrongheaded. The resources I have detailed above are available to one and all. Being uninformed is a lifestyle choice! 

Rather than trumpet Zionist views, such religious and secular American Jews might well put their efforts towards redirecting the mindless consumerism that has colonized the minds of many of their brethren and re-channel it towards the social justice-oriented movements that have long characterized contemporary Judaism. That energy should also be redirected towards resolving the numerous social inequities within Israel itself, a “democracy” where Arab Israelis and Reform Jews alike find themselves discriminated against. 


Harry S. Pariser is a San Francisco resident.