To congressional candidate Lee Goodman

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2004-04-04

To Illinois 10th Congressional District Democratic Party candidate Lee Goodman.

Hi, Lee. I have just read, belatedly, your journal entries which give your positions on many of the issues in this election, and they are fine statements of the liberal values and appeals for progressive domestic change that we all wish for in this congressional election. But I am troubled by your position on the situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which seems, with slight nuance, to adopt the stance of your Republican opponent: which is basically that the US "hands-off" position is the correct one for the administration to take.

Lee, you must be aware of the real situation in the Occupied Territories under Israeli military occupation, not widely reported in our press, it's true, but reported in most European, British, and even Israeli newspapers (e.g., Amira Haas and Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz) -- reporting on, as the New York Times said, Israel's "ignoring of universal ethical norms" in carrying out the Sharon policy of continual collective punishment against an impoverished civilian population.

Even before the harsh incursion of the massively destructive wall into the West Bank, daily life had become a virtual nightmare under the continual presence of tanks and armored carriers into the towns and refugee camps in Jenin and Ramallah, ostensibly to "crush the terrorists" but in reality destroying large elements of town and city infrastructure like the ministries of education and health, schools, banks, markets and businesses, electricity and sewer grids, home demolitions -- home demolitions has for years been the hallmark of Israeli policy, in the territories and in Israel proper -- creating of course more and more homeless and destitute civilians. These things, of course, occurred during the military invasions in April of 2002, but the "regular" situation since then and every day is harsh, cruel, humiliating at the hands of young Israeli soldiers who mock and torment the population at checkpoints where they are made to wait hour upon hour even if they are ill in ambulance, or even if women are in labor.

Now comes the building of the massive "separation" fence, electrified razor wire and 20-foot high medieval wall with armed watch towers, built NOT on the green line demarcating the 1967 border -- which would have been a totally reasonable response to terror attacks if it had been given that route -- but it is being built to snake deep inside and through Palestinian land and is, as one Knesset member stated:

A brutal attack on Palestinians who have committed no sin, an invasive eruption by a brute without inhibition or tether [he is referring to Sharon], one suited to serve as prime minister of South Africa in the blackest days of the apartheid that conceived the reprehensible Bantustans. --Yossi Sarid, MK, former chairman of the Meretz party, published in Ha'aretz, Jan 21, 2004

Lee, I am truly sorry to bend your ear like this, but I hope you take the time to read what I, one of your loyal supporters feel very deeply about this so painful situation.

Now a Palestinian awakens in the morning, every morning, and sees the monstrous wall that separates him from members of his family, from his fields and orchards, separates his children from their school, sees his destitute piece of land robbed from him, his world closed up, dark and devastated, and he certainly blames us...Without a doubt, on the basis of the concepts that I know, Sharon's fence is a crime against humanity. There is no other way to define it. (Ibid)

These facts and much more are known to the Bush administration. In spite of the signing of the Road Map agreement under which all illegal settlements built after March of 2001 were to be dismantled, the expansion of the settlements proceeds -- the crux of the conflict -- with the approval of new settlements, every day for the world to behold, all illegal -- all without a peep of protest from President Bush. Sharon has been given a green light by Bush to continue as before until such time as the Palestinians -- alone -- "reform."

Meanwhile, the roadblocks, the checkpoints, the vast expressways built through, and expropriating more, Palestinian land -- highways strictly for the use of the settlers, not the Palestinians -- the destruction of thousand of dunams of essential agricultural land, uprooting of ancient groves of olive trees, continuing confiscations, the apartheid, the racism.

As Gideon Levy wrote in Ha'aretz:

Few Israelis are capable of imagining what life is like in the towns of the West Bank where suicide bombers live. These are young people who have no reason to get up in the morning other than to face another day of joblessness and humiliation. Most Israelis have little interest in knowing this; most of the media don't report it, don't show the killings or the bulldozers that demolish homes, or the injured being taken to hospitals, or the injured never taken to hospitals because Israeli soldiers prevent ambulances from taking them...a society that disregards loss of human life caused by its own soldiers is a tainted society...we count only our own dead. All the others don't exist. (Ha'aretz, 2003)

The former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avram Burg wrote:

Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism." He implores the diaspora Jews to speak out against the Sharon policies which he says rest "on a scaffolding of corruption and on foundations of oppression and injustice. (Ha'aretz)

Other Israelis of conscience are speaking truth to power. Twenty-seven Israeli Air Force pilots have, this year again, refused to obey "immoral orders for air strikes on populated civilian centers," four ex-chiefs of the Shin Beit have charged Sharon with "leading Israel to ruin. If we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves," (NYTimes report), and over five hundred members of the reserve combat soldiers and officers force have refused assignments in the occupied territories, stating "We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people." ( Ha'aretz, Jan. 2002)

Lee, there is an Israeli peace movement, just as there is in the US. Its spokespeople, as all people of conscience, say that attacks on innocent civilians, be they Israeli or Palestinian, are forbidden under most understandings of international law. But that also compliance with international law requires ending a long list of Israeli violations, starting with the military occupation of the West bank and Gaza and, the foundation of the occupation, the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories, the new massive wall into Palestinian territory, the punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes, restrictions on freedom of movement within the Occupied Territories with the checkpoints, road blocks and curfews, denial of rights to health, education and employment, arbitrary detention and other forms of collective punishment.

That some Palestinians have turned themselves into weapons is not something inherent to Palestinians or Muslims. Rather, it is a tragic weapon, which must be condemned, but it is a weapon of the hopeless who have nothing else to fight with.

The spokespeople of the peace movement say that in order to stop attacks on Israeli civilians we must look at the source of the violence and address that, instead of arguing about whether one act of violence is worse than another. We need to treat the disease of all the violence and not just one of its symptoms.

Occupation forces and policies are degrading and dehumanizing; they injure, kill the soul and make life near impossible for Palestinians, and this is all even when the Israeli army is not actively attacking a.k.a.'carrying out operations' in Palestinian villages, towns and cities...anyone who decries the [Palestinian] violence without decrying the violence of the occupation is attacking symptoms instead of root causes and accepting violence in the form of occupation. (NotInMyName Bulletin Board, March 9, 2004)

Or, as the Israeli pilot Yonathan Shapira, one of the signatories of the Israeli pilots' letter, says in response to the Israeli government's defense of extra-judicial assassination bombings:

The fact that buses explode here does not justify Sharon, Mofaz and Air Force Chief Dan Halutz decision to 'unintentionally' kill nine children in their sleep and to sow terror in a population of millions who live under a reign of closures, curfews and checkpoints, a population enclosed by walls and camps, under the guns of an enormous and frightening army, equipped to the teeth with jet planes which shake the skies, and attack-helicopters who time and again send rockets into cars and into the windows of houses in crowded and destitute cities. (quoted in Counterpunch, Jan.23, 2003)

Lee, the foregoing -- from the mouths of patriotic and loyal Israelis -- provides evidence at least that the phenomenon of Palestinian terrorism -- which cannot ever be condoned -- does not arise from a "desire to destroy Israel" but from a direct and elemental tragic response to Israeli oppression. And the deadly silence of the Bush administration enables this oppression to go forward, thus begetting more suicide bombings. (E.g., when Colin Powell responds to an Israeli extra-judicial "targeted killing" merely by being "disturbed" it's clear to Sharon he has a green light for continuing to flout international law with impunity.)

Lee, the position of our party should challenge the deadly status-quo position of the Bush administration. America needs a Middle East policy not written by the American Enterprise Institute. For Republicans like Kirk the strong ties between the right-wing of the US and the right-wing of Israel is simply not to be questioned. But we should.

Our appeal should -- at the least -- be an even-handed US policy. When Howard Dean called for just that, early in his campaign last fall, the pundits claimed he was "finished" -- surprise surprise, his support and fund-raising grew by leaps in response. That was because there is a silent majority of people, including many American Jews and allies who intrinsically know in their hearts that peace requires a just US foreign policy in the Middle East. And Dean gave voice to that feeling. (Indeed, there is a published letter of support for that position signed by 400 North American and European members of the organization called Rabbis for Human Rights which I have a print copy of to show you.)

It is right that President Bush restate US support for the survival of Israel, and at the same time renounce Sharon's policy of repression and creeping annexation while he talks of "peace." Sharon is not a "man of peace," as Bush unbelievably described him. And as Israel's guardian and total benefactor (to the tune of three billion dollars a year, plus much in guaranteed loans, etc.) the US has a right to demand that our democratic values be respected. For a country that claims to be the "only democracy in the region," Israel must be taught that democracy for some and dispossession and persecution of three million others is not our values.

I urge you to speak against this destructive and immoral -- un-Jewish -- policy. If you do this with honest belief and integrity, you will win new approval and support -- and even national notice.