Israel deserves criticism

by Aaron Mate on Tuesday November 06

Evidently some of my fellow Jewish students here at Concordia seem
to be incapable of understanding the difference between opposing
Israel and being anti-Semitic. I will repeat and elaborate on what
has already been said before. I apologize in advance to those who
might see this as a distinction so obvious that it seems almost
silly to discuss it.

Many have argued that since Israel is a Jewish state, any opposition
to it must be rooted in anti-Semitism. I wouldn't agree. It depends,
after all, on what grounds Israel is being criticised. If, for
example, one doesn't like Israel because it is a state for Jewish
people and one hates Jewish people, then that is obviously
anti-Semitic. However, if one chooses to criticize Israel for its
crimes committed against Palestinians, they do so out of an
elementary concern for human rights—the same grounds on which one
would oppose Russian slaughter in Chechnya, the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait, and South African apartheid.

I can relate to the attachment that people have for Israel. But no
matter how much it may mean to us, it serves no one if we refuse to
look at it honestly.

The words of Vladimir Jabotinski, an early Zionist leader, are apt:
"Zionism is a colonizing adventure, and therefore it stands or falls
by the question of armed force." Jabotinski spoke in 1923, but this
view is an accurate description still relevant today. The
establishment and expansion of Israel in 1948 was followed by a
massive flight of about 750,000 Palestinians, caused in large part
by the actions of Israeli military forces who engaged in the
destruction of Arab villages near Jewish settlements.

In 1967, Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza, placing around 1.5
million Palestinians under a military occupation that is viewed by
almost the entire world as criminal and illegal. In the years since,
Jewish settlements have been built in and around these areas. Many
of these settlements have swimming pools and lush green lawns while
the neighbouring Palestinians often only have running water and
electricity for limited hours a day.

I once visited Hebron, an ancient town of 100,000 Palestinians where
500 Jewish settlers have moved right in the centre of town. The
streets were virtually empty because we had come on a Jewish holiday
and Palestinians were not allowed outside their homes as they might
disturb the celebration. The only sign I saw of them came from the
faces that stared at us from behind their windows and doors.

The peace process so admired here has only "changed the modalities,
but not the basic concept" of the occupation, as Noam Chomsky points
out. The 1993 Oslo Accords marked a shift from the use of direct
military control and brutality to a policy that Schlomo Ben-Ami,
writing in 1998 before he became Foreign Minister under Ehud Barak's
government, described as being "founded on a neocolonialist basis."
The goal of the peace process, he explained, was to create an
"almost total dependence on Israel" for the Palestinians, putting
them in a colonial situation that was to be permanent.

It should be of little wonder that Palestinians have refused to
capitulate to what their own occupiers have long seen correctly as a
colonizing adventure.

These matters provoke some simple choices. We can cling to our blind
emotional attachments to Israel and the mythology cast around it,
thereby suppressing an ugly history that continues to the present
moment. Or we can approach our concern for Israel as we would any
object of our affection: with honesty. Only once we develop the
ability to do so will we be able to deal with the

Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a serious manner, a crucial
consideration for those of us who wish to see it end peacefully and
securely for all sides.
 

Aaron Maté is a CSU councilor and a member of the Jewish Alliance
Against the Occupation.