Mondoweiss Interview of me regarding my new novel, THE EXODUS BETRAYAL: A President Confronts Israel.


Imagine a US president taking Iran’s side in conflict with Israel, and you get Maguire’s thriller ‘Exodus Betrayal’

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[The following email interview of me by Phil Weiss can be found at Mondoweiss.net, the go-to site for informed articles and lively comment on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people and US involvement in that struggle. Weiss is the founder and co-editor of Mondoweiss.]

WEISS: Gil Maguire has lately published a thriller titled “The Exodus Betrayal: A President Confronts Israel” as an answer to Leon Uris’s 1958 novel “Exodus” that along with the movie version by Otto Preminger starring Paul Newman was so important in shaping American attitudes towards Israel in the 1960’s. If “Exodus” dramatized the liberation of Jews from European persecution, “The Exodus Betrayal” imagines an American president freeing this country from its slavish support for Israel. President Hailey Hannagan refuses to cater to Israel and its domestic lobby when it attacks Iran, to the point that Israel and the U.S. exchange hostilities and the president’s life is threatened. The alternative narrative goes on to envision real negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, brought about by ultimatums to Israel. But we won’t give too much away.

Maguire has contributed articles and comments to our site; I asked him a number of questions about his story and he responded by email.

Q. Like me you think the only way out of Israel support is a reverse Exodus story, to get the people out the same way they got in, through a fantasy of rebirth and power, but this time about American rebirth and power. Why do stories matter so much when it comes to issues of international law and politics? 

Maguire: For me, the reverse Exodus story is less about American rebirth and more about using our power to force Israel to change, to be reborn; it’s more about we (the US) realizing we’ve been conned into supporting and enabling a brutish little country that should be pretty insignificant to us in the greater scheme of things. And doing something about it which is the hard part. It’s about exposing the falsity of the narrative and the harm the relationship is causing the US, and about Israel’s denial of the right of Palestinians to self determination and basic freedoms, contrary to American values.

Stories (fiction) can have a major impact on political issues as did Exodus, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and a few others. They do so by appealing to the emotions of readers rather than the appeal to logic and reason of dry nonfiction.  If a reader becomes emotionally committed to fictional characters and their story, he or she can also become committed or at least sympathetic to the story’s narrative, whether true or untrue.

My goal and hope is that enough readers will become engaged, attached to, and empathetic with my characters and their story to see Israel and its narrative in a different light.

Why did Exodus work in the first place? Did you see the movie/read the book when you were young? 

It worked because it told a story through the eyes and experiences of engaging fictional characters that readers could identify and empathize with. Through these characters, readers were taught and bought into a largely fictional Zionist narrative.  Art, in this case fiction, persuades through emotional engagement which can be far more effective and lasting than dry, rational/logical attempts to persuade.

Exodus came out during the era of the epic novel, the late 50s. It caught on and put Israel and the Zionist narrative myth on the map. I read it in high school. I think back then most people didn’t know much or care about Israel. Exodus changed that.  Suddenly we saw Israel as a noble David fighting off the hordes of savage Arabs. Instead of just another squabbling Middle East country, it now had a unique identity that we cared about because we became emotionally engaged by its characters and the story or myth they told us.  And it stuck. We feared and cheered for Israel in 67 and then again in 73.  We supported our massive airlift of supplies and then blamed the Arabs instead of the Israelis for the immense harm caused by the oil embargo.

The movie Exodus and the Ferrente and Teicher musical theme added more emotional cement to that narrative. It was an artistic triple whammy: an engaging work of fiction, a dramatic movie, and a stirring musical theme. I think the myth stuck at least until the 82 Lebanon war when Israel’s excesses began to create some doubts.

When did you get interested in the question? When did it “take over your life,” as it has many of us?

My father’s role in flying thousands of Jews to Israel in 1949-50 was part of our family history, so that was always there. I remember the 67 war as a big deal. I was in college and Jewish friends were going to enlist in the IDF which made me jealous.  Then, a few days later, it was over. What a miracle, except turned out it wasn’t.

I think my father’s disillusionment with Israel before his death, and the Iraq War were turning points for me when I began to discover how much the Neocons were beholden to the lobby and Israel. Coming to Mondoweiss provided me a forum to write about the issue but I can’t remember what brought me there.  I started by doing a lot of comment postings then started writing articles which you were kind enough to publish.

A few years back, my best friend from high school (a Jew) told me I should try writing fiction because I’d had such a weird, convoluted, interesting life.  I was skeptical but gave it a try and loved it. I loved how fiction brought out the emotional side of me, how it created and developed my characters and drove my plot in unexpected directions. That emotional side of fiction captures both the writer and the reader.

I then got into a UCLA fiction writing program, wrote a lot of short stories and then my first novel, all unrelated to Israel. Then one day it occurred to me that I could write a reverse Exodus and that it might have a lot more impact than my non-fiction Mondoweiss efforts were having.  This was in early 2008 when we expected Hillary to be elected which is why I decided on a female president protagonist.  I think both my non-fiction Mondoweiss writing and my reverse Exodus novel took over a good part of my life about then.

What are the myths you are trying to undo/create of your own in order to undo the special relationship?

I wanted to write a good story with engaging characters struggling to deal with a tiny little country with powerful domestic lobby that was doing great harm to our national interests by getting us into wars of choice that really weren’t ours to fight. While the story is centered on Israel/Palestine in the 1940s, my novel is centered in a modern White House. The main myth I was trying to undo was the Israel as a poor little David besieged by powerful savage Arab Goliath states myth.  This was never true, even in 1947-48. I was also trying to show how dysfunctional and harmful our relationship with Israel had become and how the so-called special relationship itself was based on a myth of Israel’s importance.

When did your focus on the lobby begin, and why didn’t you call AIPAC AIPAC?

It was inevitable I focus on the lobby. The lobby exists as Israel’s handmaiden or army of handmaidens.

I can’t pinpoint when I became aware of a formal Israel lobby but I can remember stories I heard around my parents’ bridge table about how Jews were asked to donate to Zionist causes and threatened if they refused. This was mid-50s Los Angeles when I was in my early teens.  Jews were a huge presence in our city and in our lives back then. I knew they were influential but also knew they earned their influence. The lobby is certainly a form or outgrowth of Jewish influence but it’s not universal.  I think I first became aware of the lobby’s power when it prevented George Bush Senior’s efforts to force a two-state solution after the first Gulf War.

Why USIPAC instead of AIPAC? I suppose because my story is a work of fiction and, as I say in my preface, while my novel is historical its characters are fictional even though they may resemble actual historical figures. Same with USIPAC.

There are a lot of implausibilities in any good story, and no one really cares if the story moves. That being said, President Hannagan sits in Nationals Park without much security and no one recognizes her! But let’s move on to some of the big plot points. Her speeches repeatedly taking on Israel and the lobby. Do you think it’s merely a question of personal will? Is that what drives your story?

There was security in the bleachers. In fact a bunch of fans lost their seats because of it.  And it was a random, spur-of-the-moment event which tends to be pretty safe. Actually, she is recognized as the commotion builds around her and she leaves the stadium with bloodied knees [having caught a ball] and to great applause (I just love that sappy scene).

I think events allow President Hannagan to take on Israel but she’s also a strong character with a solid moral core (and a great arm). She comes into the office by an act of fate, knowing nothing about being a head of government, leading a nation. She is expected to rely on advisers but quickly realizes she and the country’s foreign policy are being manipulated by interventionist Neocons. So she fires her secretary of state and brings aboard an elderly Realist, Blakeslee Whitamore, who guides her in bringing the country back to sane foreign policy choices. She surrounds herself with solid, experienced figures who detest our serial interventionism: Janet Murphy, Mike McCord, Tom Murray, her chief of staff, and several others.  These folks have witnessed the carnage caused by the Neocons and work to help her change the nation’s direction.

Events generated by Israel and its lobby both force and allow President Hannagan to take on Israel and the lobby in her speeches. She knows the risks to her presidency but she decides the nation’s interests are more important than saving her own political skin. So yeah, it’s a matter of will and ultimately a matter of character.

Her speech excusing Iran for its hostile behavior as an understandable error…. Could she get away with this?

It would be difficult today but this all happens in a post-attack environment so in that context it might work.  Still, she’s bucking a narrative that is so pervasive that it has captured all the focal points of power: Congress, media, think tanks, talking heads, etc. Nobody is willing to explore the Iranian (or Russian) point of view out of fear, incompetence, lobby pressure; who knows? The safest route is to stick to the bullet points you are handed, stick to the accepted narrative. But here, she and her national security team know it was a rogue actor that gave the orders to sink our ship.  It wasn’t an “understandable error”, it was an attack order by a rogue commander that the Iranian government warned her about in advance.  Rather than risk a wider war by attacking Iran, she tells the American people what happened while also preparing for a massive attack on Iran should it become necessary.  She gets away with it because she is honest and forthright with the American people.  What a concept.

You seem to invoke a lot of old stories, subtly. Like the USS Liberty attack in 1967, of which there are several sequels here. What are the big real life models for you?

The Liberty affair is old news but it was important and intentional yet immediately covered up by a false narrative. The various espionage cases, Pollard, Franklin, etc. show a real disdain for their most important ally. The theft of nuclear materials and secrets is also well-documented. The undermining of the Iran nuclear agreement is another example of Israel and its lobby acting against the national interests of our country and its allies.  I create my own examples of similar Israeli behavior in the novel.  As bizarre and outlandish as some of these are, they’re not without historic precedent.

Ed Koch said he would be on America’s side when there was a war between the US and Israel. I.e, he’d never have to choose. You say that choice will come.. Right?

It does in the novel but under pretty extreme circumstances. I don’t know if it will ever come to that but in some ways, American Jews are already facing that choice: ‘How can I continue to support Israel when it acts contrary to American values by refusing to grant external freedom or internal equality to the Palestinians?’ That’s become a big issue separating American Jews.  Israel’s actions under Netanyahu are forcing US Jews to make a choice.

What about the argument that Americans love Israel because it’s us, reenacting a God-centered story of chosenness exceptionalism, domination….

There’s an element of that but I think it’s limited to conservative Christians, Evangelicals, and those who are attracted by simple, black and white narratives. Plus, how much of this is due to clever narrative creation, Exodus, hasbara, and the pressure put on politicians to support that narrative? That’s what Exodus was all about, making Americans believe Israel’s narrative mimics our own. The opposite argument, that Israel’s influence is bought with Jewish donor money and lobby arm twisting, is also bogus.  All of these elements are present to some degree. I think, deep down, most Americans want Israel to be one of the good guys, to reflect our values but they are also subjected to a lot of propaganda and political manipulation to reinforce that hope.

Many of the policymakers understand the lobby completely in the book and know that Israel treats us with contempt and love bucking that.. The ultimata to Israel, and of course, spoiler alert, the war with Israel. Do you think this betrayal of Israel will come to pass? How much hatred of Israel is there in the political class and the people? Hannagan’s speeches are very popular. You think there’s a reservoir of rage?

What betrayal of Israel? Isn’t it more Israel betraying us, our national interests, our values? The only betrayal I see in the novel is betrayal of a right wing Israeli government that ignores our advice and demands. And that’s not really betrayal; it’s tough love. Israel ends up much weaker as a result of President Hannagan’s actions, but it also gets a new start that allows it be the liberal democratic state some of its founders and supporters envisioned while remaining under the protective umbrella of American power.

Nor is hatred of Israel a factor.  Annoyance, anger at Israeli policies and actions is a lot different than hatred. I think the public support Hannagan receives is a reaction to the outrageousness of Israel’s actions, and justifiable rage against those actions.  It’s certainly not about hatred of Jews or ingrained, repressed antisemitism, for God’s sake, it’s about the actions of a right wing Israeli government run amok.

Re Iran and Israel and Trump, do you feel prescient? When did you write this book?

I started thinking about it in 2008 but I see nothing prescient about a fictional tale in which Israel attacks Iran.  Netanyahu has been pushing for it for decades.  What’s happening today seems to be Trumpish posturing exacerbated by Neocon efforts to fan the flames and get the war they’ve always wanted.  Hopefully Trump will keep back from the brink and restrain his Neocon advisers much as he did in Syria.  I’m just hoping he doesn’t cut it too close in the hope that he’ll be able to maintain the deep pocket support of the Adelsons while avoiding an actual war.  I think he’d love to have a sit-down with the Ayatollahs a la North Korea and if they’re smart, they’ll humor him and maybe even make some progress.

If the IRGC is behind the ship attacks, as a kind of rogue action, that does closely mirror the rogue IRGC Strait of Hormuz commander in my novel. If so, that would make me prescient. But I’d cheerfully trade accolades for prescience for a false flag Israeli attack on the tankers that suddenly is revealed for all the world to see. That could lead to some genuine outrage against Israel. Or, better yet (fictional plot-wise) if the false flag operation is revealed only after the Middle East explodes in a war between the US and Iran, that would again mirror some of what takes place in my novel.

Will the lobby be defeated in real life? Will a president ever give a speech as baldly blaming as Hailey Hannagan’s?

Nope. Only in extraordinary circumstances where an action by Israel is so outrageous sympathy for Israel evaporates.  That’s what I was trying to create in the book. An action or actions like that would also make it easier for a president and other politicos to speak out against Israel and its lobby. Hard to imagine this happening outside the unlimited scenarios afforded by fiction. Even annexation of the West Bank might not engender enough outrage to defeat the lobby. The hasbara is too good, too well-funded.

One of the ironies of my novel is that I found myself forced to look at and use extreme solutions to the I/P conflict because none of the reasonable ones seemed credible.

Walt and Mearsheimer called the lobby a loose coalition of groups and individuals. I always liked that because it was a bit amorphous but also not conspiratorial, and truly descriptive. Your lobby seems a bit more shadowy and we don’t see that many individuals, right? How do you define the lobby? And what are the roles of Jake Levin and Sam Perlman in the story?

I agree with the coalition part but I think it’s more organized and held together by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.  That keeps everyone (all 51 Jewish organizations) on the same page.  Disputes over goals and means can be ironed out internally while they present a unified front and message to the general public. I don’t see the lobby as particularly loose or amorphous.  I’d say organized, dedicated, well-funded, single-minded.  Conspiratorial? No, but it is the only major US lobby that’s dedicated to promoting and supporting the interests of a foreign country even when those interests conflict with our own. That poses a dangerous situation in my mind and the outcomes in my novel reflect that.

Jake Levin is a Marine medic or corpsman who treats Shana Levy, a CIA officer wounded in an op in Baghdad. He enlisted after 9/11 and ended up with PTSD after too many scary special ops.  He and Shana both have doubts about Israel and its US lobby and know first hand how Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians creates a great deal of antagonism toward the US in the Middle East. Shana ends up working undercover for the CIA and FBI at the USIPAC headquarters. Both are disaffected American Jews as is Sam Perlman, Hannagan’s long time campaign manager. Sam explains to Hannagan why Jewish tribalism prevents many Jews from openly discussing or even dealing with controversial issues involving Israel and its lobby. A couple of lobby big wigs make minor appearances in the novel.

I would have liked to flesh out the lobby more as well as some of the Palestinian characters, and certainly Sam Perlman, but the book is already too long for a modern novel.  The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

Do more Israeli soldiers kill themselves than are killed by Palestinians, as you say in the book?

Pam Olson gave me that tidbit and the source for it.  Actually,the numbers of Israeli soldiers killed by the Palestinians is pretty small to begin with so it’s probably not that surprising if suicides exceed that number. It’s not a meaningful statistic to me.

Do you think presidents and politicians fear Israel to the extent that Hailey comes to fear it in this book — though she has character, of course…

GM: I don’t recall her expressing fear of Israel. More frustration at not being able to moderate its actions. I suppose the fear is of Israel’s lobby and the power it wields. It’s certainly quashed the political careers of lots of ambitious and promising politicos who dared tread on its sensitive toes: Carter, Bush the Elder, Chuck Percy, Pete McCloskey, William Fulbright, and the list goes on. That power does strike fear in the hearts of our political class. They’ve learned the lesson of Percy, Fulbright, and Carter.

That whole mess certainly has a prominent place in my novel.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one of them would show the courage of Hailey Hannagan and publicly oppose and expose the Lobby (as did Eisenhower, sort of). It’s always amazed me that no member of Congress  or the Executive Branch has been willing to stand up to the Lobby bully from the pulpit. The key to defeating the Lobby is by going public, by using the power of the bully pulpit. Ultimately, that’s what Hailey Hannagan does and why she triumphs in the end.   Leave it to a strong American woman to save our nation’s bacon while our craven male politicos diddle around searching for their missing pair.

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

[There is a lively and informed comment section following this interview.  It is well worth reading and can be found at the end of the interview at https://mondoweiss.net/2019/06/president-conflict-betrayal/

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My New Novel: THE EXODUS BETRAYAL: A President Confronts Israel


My new novel, The Exodus Betrayal: A President Confronts Israel, is about Hailey Hannagan, the first female president of the United States who lands in that office as a matter of fate, with little of no experience in higher office.  The overarching subject of my novel is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is centered around a hypothetical but not unlikely attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear program.  The novel deals with the run-up to the attack and the president’s failed attempts to prevent it.  The war then takes unexpected and precarious turns for Israel, Iran, and the US. Its climax and ending suggest a possible resolution to the generations-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As my novel deals with the politics of the conflicts in the Middle East, I’ve attempted to introduce some history and differing perspectives about these conflicts through various characters: American, Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, and Iranian.  Since this is in large part a historic novel, some of the characters may appear to be recognizable or at least very similar to real-life characters.  Despite any apparent similarities, this is a work of fiction and each character is purely fictional, although many of the events they participate in are historically accurate.

To broaden the historical perspective and context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’ve used a device I call the London Calling interviews which consist of fictional interviews by a well-known radio correspondent of actual historic characters at different points in time in which they attempt to describe and interpret historic events they were a part of.  There are nine of these London Calling segments.  None of these segments is directly related to the plot of the novel.  Sources for the historic events in each segment are contained in the Endnotes with hyperlinks from the event to its endnote source. If the source is available on the internet, a hyperlink is present that will take the reader directly to the source’s website.  Most are Wikipedia sites which I chose for simplicity of reading, and quick access by the reader.  I’ve also cited several well-known histories of different aspects of the conflict which are far more detailed and authoritative. For anyone interested in the complicated history of this conflict, these books are well worth reading.

The real-world politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complicated and told through the narratives and lenses of the various participants and the groups they represent, both in the Middle East and in the US.  While I have attempted to be balanced, my novel may well be accused of having its own narrative and perhaps an inaccurate and/or biased one at that.  Any reader who wishes to point out inaccuracies or otherwise comment can contact me through my website/blog at http://www.irishmoses.com by replying to the “My New Novel The Exodus Betrayal” post in the Leave a Reply box at the bottom of that post.  Normally I respond within 24 hours.

My blog, Irish Moses, has the subtitle and theme, “How to Save Israel in Spite of Herself: Solving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” which comes from the title of an article written by the renowned American diplomat, George W. Ball in the April 1977 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. In the article he criticized US Middle East policy and recommended it use its vast power and influence to force Israel to abandon the Palestinian territories it conquered and occupied during the 1967 Six Day War and enter into a permanent peace settlement with the Arab nations and allow the Palestinians to have the land and country of their own promised them in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.

While my writings on my blog demonstrate a critical view of Israel’s post-1967 Six Day War conduct and annexation and settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I remain a strong supporter of Israel and firmly believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to protect Israel’s existence from any foreign threat.  However, I also agree with George Ball’s prescient article that Israel’s illegal settlements and annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are causing great harm to U.S. vital national security interests, and that it needs to enter into a fair and reasonable settlement that both guarantees Israel’s security and provides the Palestinians with the homeland and state of their own promised to them by the United Nations in 1947.

Irish Moses, my blog, is named in honor of an American Episcopalian who played a crucial role during the founding days of Israel.  In 1948, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, called the American who directed and led Operation Magic Carpet, “the Irish Moses”  because he and his fleet of silver C-54 transport planes and pilots flew tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from all over the world to the new homeland for the Jews, the state of Israel.  That American was my father, Robert F. Maguire, Jr. He and the pilots that flew for him were all World War II veterans, most had served in combat, but few if any were Jews.

In 2004, just a year before his death, my father was awarded the Medal of Valor  by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for “his heroic efforts that helped to rescue tens of thousands of Jews” during 1948-49 after the founding of the State of Israel.  Paradoxically, my father, the “Irish Moses” for Israeli Jews, became very critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians in his later years, and refused an invitation to attend ceremonies in Israel celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence in 1998. His refusal and criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians sparked my interest in the Israeli-Arab conflict over Palestine and was the motivation for my blog and my novel, The Exodus Betrayal.

As the youngest son of the Irish Moses, I hope my blog, writings, and novel, The Exodus Betrayal will contribute to a greater understanding and empathy for the plight of the Palestinian people, and the re-creation of a promised land and a homeland of their own they too can return to and live peacefully in alongside the existing Jewish homeland of Israel.

Gil Maguire

Oxnard, California, June 2019

 

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SILENCING DOROTHY THOMPSON: Lessons in Courage for Our Fifth Estate


SILENCING DOROTHY THOMPSON:

Lessons in Courage for Our Fifth Estate

[This piece was originally posted at Mondoweiss.net which has pictures of Dorothy as well as a video link of her narration of Sands of Sorrow, a 1950 documentary of the plight of 750,000 Palestinian refugees who Israel refused to allow to return to their lands, homes, and property at the end of the 1948 war.] 

By Gil Maguire

Many readers will find President Obama’s toast to the press at the end of Saturday night’s White House Correspondents Association dinner encouraging. He reminded journalists of their actual mission:

“In the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson: ‘It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.’”

There’s a supreme irony in Obama quoting Thompson, whose truly stellar career ended in charges of antisemitism from Zionists, to a crowd of journalists who quake in fear of having their careers destroyed by Israel supporters who more recently smeared Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr, and Jim Clancy for off-hand, ill-conceived remarks.

Thompson’s long life and career was documented in her biography, American Cassandra.  She was born in 1983, the daughter of an impoverished Methodist preacher.  After graduating from Syracuse University, she became major player in New York’s suffrage movement as an organizer and speaker.  In 1920, Thompson went to Europe with a friend to pursue her pursue journalism career.  The ship was filled with Zionists heading to a conference in London and during the 12 day voyage she learned everything she could about Zionism, becoming a strong advocate for their cause.

In London, she convinced a paper to allow her to cover the Zionist conference as a free-lance journalist and later covered the Irish Rebellion.  The popularity of her articles in the US led to further positions.  By 1925, she was head of the Berlin bureau for the New York Post.  She married author Sinclair Lewis in 1928.  She exposed and criticized the Nazis early on, and, in 1930, was one of the first journalists to interview Adolph Hitler.  She predicted the Germans would start a new war by the end of that decade.  In 1934, her aggressive anti-Nazi reporting caused Hitler to expel her from Germany.

Thompson returned home a national hero, her story on the cover of newspapers and magazines throughout the country.  Her fame increased as she became a syndicated national columnist and radio commentator for NBC.  By 1936, she was writing a political column for the New York Herald Tribune and was considered the leading voice in the war against fascism.   By 1939, she was on the cover of Time magazine.  A movie about her life stared Katharine Hepburn and a play stared Lauren Bacall.  She was named the second most popular and influential woman in America behind Eleanor Roosevelt.  She spoke out about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Jews in Europe, and urged a relaxation of immigration restrictions so the US could be a safe haven for the Jews under threat in Europe.

In the summer of 1941, she went to London to report on the Blitz and met with the Queen and with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  She fought against isolationism and urged the president to declare war on Germany.  In 1942, at a Zionist convention at the Biltmore hotel, she was the keynote speaker and gave a rousing pro-Zionist speech advocating unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine.  By the end of the war, she was considered one of Zionism’s most effective spokesmen.

All that changed early in 1945 after a fact-finding trip to Palestine.  Up until 1945, her anti-Nazi and pro-Zionist credentials were impeccable. What she saw in Palestine totally changed her outlook.  She began to write that the proposed establishment of the State of Israel was a formula for disaster, “a recipe for perpetual war” in the Middle East.  During her 1945 trip, she discovered that Zionism was not “the liberal crusade that the Zionist leaders envisaged”, and that Israel was to be “not a small state of Jews who chose to live in Israel, but a Zionist state destined to become the leading power in the Middle East.”

Her anti-Zionist statements and reporting began losing her the support of American Zionists.  Her boss at the New York Post dropped her “On the Record” column at the beginning of 1947.  He was a strong supporter of Zionism and very close to the Irgunists and Menachem Begin, the leader of this Jewish terrorist group.   Thompson had told him, after her trip to Palestine, that “…the situation there is not the way it has been presented by many of the Zionists.  It is one of the most complicated and difficult problems on the earth today.”

Despite the loss of this important column, she continued her criticism of Zionist actions in Palestine.    She concluded, after the 1948 war, that Zionism was “an aggressive, chauvinist movement” and that the new State of Israel was “an expansionist power.” She was angered by Jewish terrorism in Israel and appalled by Menachem Begin and the Irgun being treated as heroes in New York City.  She was the first and only American journalist to speak out in defense of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations, and was also the first and most prominent American journalist to be smeared with the label of “anti-Semite”.

Still, she wouldn’t back down.  In a 1949 column, she detailed the problems caused by Israel’s aggression toward the Palestinian Arabs and urged the UN to establish specific borders for the State of Israel.  Her 1949 speech before the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism resonates today:

Miss Thompson expressed alarm at the way, she said, American Jews are being indoctrinated by Zionist propaganda, “with the idea that they exist in this country–as everywhere outside of Israel–on dubious sufferance and that whatever happened in Germany could happen here any minute.” She denied that there was any analogy between the outbreak of Nazism in Germany and the danger in this country. In addition to this fear, the speaker said, “there is another tendency equally dangerous as it affects non-Jews, and that is to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”

Thompson addressed the group again in 1951, and her comments against the special relationship and about Palestinian discrimination were reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

Miss Thompson went on to say that the state of Israel and its relations with the Arab countries “is contributing to an international problem in which Americans as a whole are concerned.” She asserted that peace between the Arab states and Israel was possible “only if the U.S. ceases to treat one state in the Middle East as its particular protection and pet, and adopts more detachment and equality of treatment, and until the displaced Arabs are properly compensated for their losses.”…[She charged] “that discrimination was practiced against the Arab minority population in Israel, Miss Thomson said: “Despite all the claims of the Zionists, the minuscule Arab population, who represent not more than 15 percent of the original indigenous Arab inhabitants, live as second-rate citizens, with serious restrictions on their rights. The fact that Arabs can sit in the Knesset does not give them equal rights as citizens with Jews. And it is these statutes which are responsible for a flow of Arab refugees from Palestine that has never stopped to this day.”

In a long and thoughtful 1950 article published in the Jewish magazine Commentary, Thompson warned American Jews of the dangers of dual loyalty and of “the terrorism of criticism”.

“…there is another tendency equally dangerous as it affects non-Jews, and that is to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. This really amounts to making anti-Semites, by appointment, of everybody who either does not believe in Zionism or criticizes any phase of Zionist and Israeli policy.”

As Thompson began to increase her criticism of Zionist policies, she was shunned by the Jewish community and by many of her life-long Jewish friends who had “turned on her in a gathering tempest of resentment.”  Rumors were circulated that she was an alcoholic, and that her husband had been a Nazi sympathizer or even a former member of the Nazi general staff.  The Washington Star, which published her “On the Record” columns, censored and refused to publish any more of her columns on Zionism.

Thompson wrote in 1950, “The Zionists would like us to believe that there is no such thing as an Arab”, and that “They have also adapted the attitude that the State of Israel, unlike every other state on earth, is sacrosanct, and outside any criticism whatsoever.”  She called Israel, “the 49th state of the Union”, and “the only nation in history to have been canonized at birth.”

Thompson’s editors warned her that in the American press a hostility toward Israel was “almost a definition of professional suicide.”  Nonetheless, she would not be intimidated and said, “I refuse to become an anti-Semite by appointment”, and refused “to yield to this type of blackmail.”    The campaign against her strengthened and she began to be dropped from other papers.  Her once lucrative speaking career began to dry up because of the organized campaign to label her as an anti-Semite, a label that stuck for the rest of her career.

Dorothy Thompson’s is truly a remarkable story.  Her apex was probably 1948 when Claire Booth Luce and others wanted her to run for president.  She’d been one of Zionism’s most famous and influential spokesmen.  Her defection, in 1949, created great anger in the Jewish/Zionist communities, and in few short years her career was in tatters and her influence largely gone.  Today, Dorothy Thompson is virtually unknown and unremembered.  This fascinating woman who deserves to be an icon of the feminist movement, is rarely, if ever, mentioned as an important female historical figure.

I suspect there were very few members of the press at the White House Press dinner Saturday night who have any inclination toward investigating and reporting the plight of the Palestinians, or the pernicious influence of right wing Jewish billionaires on American foreign policy, and now American presidential candidates. President Obama’s gratuitous praise of the American press, at least the television version, was largely undeserved.  Many are little more than talking heads on “news” networks that offer mostly infotainment and shameless touting of marginal news stories accompanied by frequent and breathless claims of more “breaking news”.   The entire bunch couldn’t fill Dorothy Thompson’s left shoe.  To suggest that our TV press is focused on preserving our liberty is ludicrous when ratings and advertising revenue are the obvious focus.

One can only wonder why President Obama praised our press corps using a true icon of journalism as an example.  Was he trying, indirectly, to make a point, to remind them of a journalistic icon of the past in the hope they would recapture their own courage and return to true investigative journalism?  I’d like to think so.

Dorothy Thompson was the first to pay the price of standing up and reporting the excesses of Zionism.  If America’s journalists truly want liberty to survive, they need to exercise that liberty by practicing their craft with the courage and determination of Dorothy Thompson whose incredible story will be told in the soon-to-be-released documentary, “The Silencing of Dorothy Thompson”.

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When Occupation Becomes Apartheid


By Gil Maguire

Israel’s military occupation and control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has gone on almost half a century, since it conquered those territories during the 1967 Six Day War.  While many fear Israel will become an apartheid state unless it relinquishes all or most of these occupied territories, the evidence is overwhelming that Israel created an apartheid system and became an apartheid state at the end of the 1967 war, 48 years ago.

 THE LAW OF MILITARY OCCUPATION

Under international law and Section III of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, a conquering army becomes an occupying power once military operations have ceased.  The occupying power has the duty to restore public order and safety and protect the local civilian population.   Under Article 49, it cannot seize or annex any part of the territory occupied or forcibly deport civilians, nor can it permanently transfer its own citizens into the occupied territory.  It must also relinquish control of the occupied territory and return it to civilian authority and control as soon as reasonably possible once order is restored.

The US conducted one the most difficult military occupations in history at the end of World War II after it had defeated the combined Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan.  Despite the bitterness of the conflict, the US restored public order and safety and took less than eight years to rebuild the infrastructure and civilian democratic institutions of all three countries and return each to sovereign democratic rule.  The US didn’t seize or annex the sovereign territory of these three countries, it didn’t deport civilians, nor did it transfer portions of its own civilian population into the three countries it occupied.  The US post-World War II occupations are models of how military occupations should be conducted, and today, Germany, Italy, and Japan, all former bitter enemies of the US, are healthy, prosperous democracies, and strong allies.

THE UNLAWFUL DEPORTATIONS AND ANNEXATIONS

By sharp contrast, Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has defied international law almost from the beginning.  Some 300,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes during and after the 1967 fighting and then were deported from the territories occupied by Israel, as were another 130,000 from the captured Golan Heights.

Israel also prevented Palestinian refugees from lawfully returning to their homes and lands by denying them entry at the borders and by using force against those who surreptitiously attempted to return.  It destroyed dozens of Arab towns and villages to prevent their Arab inhabitants from returning.  It also seized and annexed Palestinian lands including East Jerusalem and about 27 square miles of West Bank land which became Greater Jerusalem the so-called eternal capital of Israel.  Later it annexed the Golan Heights.  Both annexations have been declared illegal under international law.

DIPLOMACY BY PREVARICATION, FOREIGN POLICY BY DECEPTION

In his meticulously researched study of the two years following the 1967 Six Day War, The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War (2012, Yale University Press), author Avi Raz details how Israel successfully forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to leave the West Bank and then conducted “a diplomacy of prevarication” aimed at deceiving the US and its allies into believing it was willing to allow the refugees to return, and would give back the territories it had captured during the war.  Raz also shows how Israel was approached by both the Jordanian government and by Palestinian leaders who were eager, after the debacle of the 1967 Six Day War, to negotiate a settlement with the Israelis.  Israel used its excruciatingly-protracted talks with both sides to convince the UN and the US that it was interested in and working toward a negotiated settlement while instead it was doing everything possible to delay and avoid any commitment to one.

This diplomatic strategy was aptly described by Israel’s foreign minister, Abba Eban, as tahksisanut or unstraightforwardness .  Raz concludes Israel was never willing to trade captured land for peace and used a “foreign policy of deception” to hide that fact from its allies, mainly the US who it feared would force it to return the captured lands, and refuse to sell it the sophisticated aircraft and weaponry it craved.  Raz argues that Israel’s entire approach to settlement negotiations from 1967, through the Oslo Accord of 1993, to the present day  followed Eban’s strategy of diplomatic tahksisanut.   The goal has always been to delay and avoid an agreement until the number of illegal settlements and settlers in the occupied territories created facts on the ground that would make the permanency of Greater Israel a fait accompli. The collapse and failure of Secretary of State Kerry’s 2013-14 peace talks reflects the continuing success of tahksisanut, of Israeli duplicity.

THE ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS

  Raz quotes then Israeli prime minister, Levi Eshkol, as saying Israel “wanted the dowry” (the land of the occupied territories) “but not the bride” (the Palestinians living on that land).   To solve that dilemma, plans were made and implemented almost immediately after the war to keep the occupied territories as an integral part of Greater Israel or Eretz Yisrael, and create all-Jewish settlements in the occupied areas to create facts on the ground that would make the creation of a separate Palestinian state difficult if not impossible.  In September of 1967, a secret legal memo commissioned by Israel’s prime minister made it clear that transferring Israeli Jewish citizens onto settlements in the occupied territories would be a direct violation of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Despite this warning, Israel began the process of transferring Jewish civilians into settlements, establishing 12 in 1967, followed by ever-increasing numbers in the next five decades.  Today, 48 years later, over 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population, well over 600,000 Israeli Jews, live in hundreds of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible, as was the plan from the very beginning.

US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, in a March 1968 memo to the US embassy in Israel, told the US ambassador to warn the Israeli government that the transfer of its civilians into the occupied territories violated Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He instructed the ambassador to tell the Israeli government, in the strongest possible terms, the US opposition to any Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.  He also said that creation of Jewish settlements created the impression that Israel had no intention of reaching a settlement and withdrawing from the occupied territories.  Half a century later, Rusk’s memo has proved prophetic.

The evidence is clear that Israel knew its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention but decided to ignore them.  Its illegal actions of forcing civilians out of the occupied territories, refusing to allow them to return, annexing portions of occupied lands for itself, and transferring its own civilians into the occupied lands, all while keeping the Palestinians under strict military rule, demonstrate an intent to keep the occupied territories for itself.   Its negotiation strategy of tahksisanut is further evidence of that intention.

If Israel had no intention of withdrawing from the occupied territories, and deliberately violated most if not all of the legal precepts regarding military occupation, its behavior was and remains illegal under international law and constitutes grave violations of the laws of war, or war crimes.  Even President Obama’s White House seems to have finally acknowledged this hard fact.  On March 23, at the J Street annual conference, White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough said,

“Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely”; “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state”;  “Palestinian children deserve the same right to be free in their own land as Israeli children in their land,”

THE LAW AND PRACTICE OF APARTHEID

Can Israel’s 48 year illegal military occupation be described as apartheid?  The term was originally used to describe a system of racial segregation in South Africa.  Today, the crime of apartheid, according to the UN Apartheid Convention, applies to acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial, ethnic, or religious group, over another by acts of systematic oppression.  Examples include: denying the one group the right to life and liberty and subjecting members of that group to arbitrary arrest and expropriation of property; depriving the group of the right to leave and return to their country, or of freedom of movement and residence; the creation of separate areas for the members of different racial groups; the prohibition of mixed marriages, etc.

Each of these examples applies to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, and, to a lesser extent, to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are non-Jews.  Some 50 laws in Israel discriminate against non-Jewish Israeli citizens, forcing them to live in impoverished Arab communities surrounded by prosperous all-Jewish communities who receive the vast majority of public resources.  Moreover, Israel’s Arab population lived under strict martial law the first 18 years of Israel’s existence, until 1966, even though Israeli Arabs became nominal citizens of Israel in 1952.  Today, there remain about 274,000 Israeli Arab citizens who are internally displaced refugees of the 1948 war who fled or were forced to leave their homes and villages and were not allowed to return to reclaim their homes, land, and property after the end of the war even though they are lawful residents and citizens of Israel.

In the occupied West Bank, conditions are far worse.  Palestinians are forced to live in enclaves (the so-called Area A) surrounded by Israeli military zones (Area B).  Area C, about 61 percent of the West Bank, contains over 300,000 Jewish settlers living in all-Jewish settlements under complete Israeli control.  This area completely surrounds Areas A and B.  Palestinians are forced to live in dozens of separate enclaves, their movement heavily restricted.  Arbitrary arrest and detention of adults and even young children is commonplace, due process a distant dream.

Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is confiscated and used to build all-Jewish Israeli settlements protected by Israeli Army units, and connected by access roads that are restricted to use by Jews only.  Israeli Jews living in the occupied territories have full civil rights including the right to vote while their Palestinian Arab neighbors live under Israeli military law, have no civil rights, and cannot vote in Israel’s national elections.   All of these discriminatory restrictions on the Palestinian Arab population certainly seem to meet the definition of apartheid.

Stephen Robert, a Jewish-American investment banker, and long-time Israel supporter, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former chancellor of Brown University, described the situation in the occupied territories as apartheid after fact-finding visits to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2011.  In a long and detailed article entitled “Apartheid on Steroids”, he concluded,

“How can Jews, who have been persecuted for centuries, tolerate this inhumanity? Where is their moral compass? How can this situation be acceptable to Judaism’s spiritual and political leaders? I don’t have that answer; except to say that Israel’s biggest enemy has become itself.”

That was four years ago.  David Shulman, an Israeli Jew and distinguished professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem described similar conditions in his March 21 post-Israeli election recap, article:

“Israel has, in effect, knowingly moved further toward a full-fledged apartheid system. Those who don’t like the word can suggest another one for what I see each week in the territories and more and more inside the Green Line.” [Emphasis added].

Shulman sees apartheid in the occupied territories and more and more evidence ofit even within Israel itself.  Israeli journalist and author, Amira Hess, sees much the same,

“When you look at the geography of Palestinians in Israel, it’s the same geography, they are encircled in enclaves. They are deprived of their land. Most of their land has been taken by Jews to settle, even though they are Israeli citizens… They are all packed and cramped in houses without spaces to breathe, without agricultural lands…The political geography of the Israeli state is very similar on both sides of the Green Line.”

The treatment of Palestinian Arabs by Israeli Jews is also strikingly similar to the treatment of non-whites by South Africa’s all-white regime under apartheid.  Moreover, all the conditions for apartheid, the deportations, the annexations, the creation of Jewish settlements, the isolation of Palestinians under military law, were put in place by the Israeli government in 1967.  Since both the intent and the fact of apartheid were in place in 1967, and since conditions have only gotten worse, it’s become impossible to call Israel’s near half century military occupation of the Palestinian people on Palestinian lands in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza anything but apartheid.

The only remaining question is why we as Americans continue to support a country whose oppression of its Arab population is so contrary to our own national values, a country who openly practices apartheid.  Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinian people makes a mockery of its claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”, as does its claim that Israel and the US share common values.

It’s high time that we, as Americans, face up to the fact that supporting Israel is supporting apartheid, and that our military, economic, and diplomatic support of that country has fostered and abetted nearly half a century of continuing oppression of 4.5 million Palestinians.  It’s also high time we put a stop to it by telling our representatives in Congress that while we as Americans support the state of Israel, we will no longer provide military, economic, and diplomatic support for Israeli apartheid.

Gil Maguire is a retired civil rights attorney and a writer of both non-fiction and fiction.  His interest in the Israel-Palestine issue came from his father’s involvement flying Jewish refugees from around the world to the new state of Israel in 1948-49.  David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister called his father “the Irish Moses” because of his exploits, hence the name of Maguire’s blog site — www.irishmoses.com

Posted in Anti-Semitism, antisemitism, apartheid, Criticizing Israel, East Jerusalem, Golan Heights, intolerance, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, J Street, Jerusalem, lobby, occupation, occupied territories, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, West Bank, Zionism, Zionists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A RESPONSE TO MICHAEL DOUGLAS: CRITICIZING ISRAEL ISN’T ANTI-SEMITISM


By Gil Maguire

Michael Douglas, in his op-ed piece in last Sunday’s LA Times, “Finding Judaism, facing anti-Semitism”, tells a compelling story about his young son encountering an anti-Semite at a hotel pool in southern Europe who shouted insults at him because he was wearing a Star of David.    While everyone can agree it’s important to stand up against anti-Semitism, it’s also important to reject false claims of anti-Semitism used as an ad hominem sword to protect Israel and the actions of its government from criticism.  Where real anti-Semitism is present, as in the despicable incident involving Douglas’s young son, it needs to be named and shamed and hopefully soon eradicated.   Where it’s not, where it’s used as a tactic to protect Israel from valid criticism, we need to reject it and avoid the slippery slope that reduces claims of anti-Semitism to little more than political theater.

Douglas goes down that slippery slope when he says,

“A second root cause of anti-Semitism derives from an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel.  Far too many people see Israel as an apartheid state and blame the people of an entire religion for what, in truth, are internal national policy decisions.”

First, it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel and its government for its policies or actions any more than it’s anti-Russian to criticize Putin’s government for its interference in the Ukraine.  Criticism of Israel doesn’t necessarily indicate an anti-Semitic motive or hatred of all Jews.  Certainly, some who criticize Israel are anti-Semites (David Duke comes to mind), but again, that doesn’t mean all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

Israel can’t be held immune to criticism simply because it is Israel and most of its citizens are Jewish.  Tarring all who criticize Israel with the anti-Semitic brush is its own form of bigotry, and placing any individual or country above criticism sets a dangerous precedent.

Second, Douglas says too many people see Israel as an apartheid state and blame all Jews for what are really internal national policy decisions.  Certainly the charge of apartheid within Israel’s pre-1967 borders is unwarranted since all Israeli citizens, both Jews and Arabs, have civil rights, including the right to vote.  However, there are some 50 laws in Israel that discriminate against its Arab-Israeli citizens in favor of Jews.

The real problem lies in Greater Israel, specifically in the Palestinian territories Israel captured and occupied in 1967.  There the apartheid charge has a great deal of validity.  In the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, there are 4.5 million Palestinian Arabs who have lived under Israeli military control and occupation without civil rights or the right to vote for almost half a century.

At most these Palestinians have very limited voting rights within the truncated areas of the occupied territories.  They vote for local leaders who have virtually no control over Israel’s hegemony in the occupied territories.  They live under a harsh military occupation and have no say whatsoever in the national policy or leadership of the Greater Israel that totally controls their borders, their travel, their natural resources, in short, their entire lives.  Self-rule and voting rights for the Palestinians of the occupied territories is little different than that of the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.

In 2012, Stephen Roberts, the former chancellor of Brown University and a Jewish-American and major life-long supporter of Israel, concluded, after a humanitarian aid trip to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, that “… Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids.”  Depriving 4.5 million people, primarily Muslims, of their most basic civil rights for half a century certainly looks like apartheid.  Moreover, under those circumstances, Palestinian resistance and hatred of Israel seems understandable.

Third, Douglas criticizes those who label Israel’s actions as apartheid for interfering in what he sees as merely Israel’s “internal national policy decisions”.  In other words, whatever the Israeli government decides is above criticism because it’s really just making decisions involving internal matters of national policy.   Douglas is on shaky ground here.  Would he apply that standard to those who criticized the internal national policy decisions of Nazi Germany, of the Rwandan government during the genocide of the Tutsi, of the Khmer Rouge government in Cambodia, or of the South African apartheid regime?

No country, including Israel can be held immune from valid criticism.  Douglas would do well to think about one looming fact: In this week’s election in Israel, the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East”, 35 percent of the population of Israel and its occupied territories, the non-Jewish population of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, weren’t allowed to vote even though they’ve been under Israel control and occupation for nearly half a century.  That’s 4.5 million people that have been waiting to for their freedom and basic human civil rights for now 48 years.  They live, unfortunately, in what most Israelis see as Greater Israel which includes Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, the Eretz Yisrael of their Old Testament dreams.  Does Douglas really believe a 2000 year old claim based on the Old Testament should be allowed to trump the basic human rights of 4.5 million indigenous Palestinians?

Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, should be admired for having given back by being leaders in a wide variety of worthwhile progressive causes.  As a Jew, he should be concerned about stopping the scourge of anti-Semitism, as should we all, but as a Jewish progressive he should also be concerned about the current direction of Zionism, particularly the Zionism practiced by the hard-right Likud party and its now reelected leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.  The question he should ask is whether Israeli Zionism, as practiced today, is consistent with Jewish values, and American values.

I would hope that Douglas, as a newfound Jew, would avoid the trap of equating Zionism with Judaism.  Zionism is a very modern and recent offshoot of Judaism, one of the world’s oldest and most noble religions.   Whether this offshoot, in its present form, is consistent with the values and precepts of Judaism is a question for Douglas to answer.  I would hope he would follow the example of Brown University Chancellor Stephen Roberts’ and take his wife and son on an investigative journey to the occupied Palestinian territories, and then come to his own conclusions and give us a 2015 update.

Gil Maguire is a retired civil rights attorney and writer of both fiction and non-fiction.  He lives in Oxnard.   His blog, Irish Moses, is named in honor of his father, Robert F. Maguire, who was awarded the Medal of Valor by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2004 for “his heroic efforts that helped to rescue tens of thousands of Jews” during 1948-49 after the founding of the State of Israel.

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SELECTIVE VOTING IN THE LAND OF GREATER ISRAEL


By Gil Maguire

Can a country that has deprived over a third of its population  of basic civil rights, including the right to vote, for nearly half a century, be called a democracy?  Next week, citizens of Israel, who proudly claim they are the only democracy in the Middle East, will vote in the fifteenth national election they’ve had since 1967. In June of that year, Israel captured and occupied the entirety of Palestine including the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the areas most presumed would soon become the long-delayed Palestinian state.

Sadly, after decades of fruitless negotiations, the goal of an independent state for the Palestinian people seems more and more a cruel chimera.  There is little remaining support for a two state solution among the Israeli electorate and Israeli leaders, including its prime minister, now admit publicly there will be no Palestinian state.  The bleak reality of nearly half a century of Israeli military occupation and settlement of the Palestinian territories has made it obvious that the Zionist goal of creating so-called Greater Israel, or Eretz Israel, which includes pre-1967 Israel, as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Judea and Samaria), was achieved in 1967.

Greater Israel has only been strengthened and solidified in the ensuing 48 years as Israel gradually transferred over 10 percent of its Jewish population into over 200 illegal, all-Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.   It continues to build new settlements at a frenetic pace.  Israel’s Minister of Housing predicts a 50 percent increase in the Jewish West Bank settler population from 400,000 in 2014 to about 600,000 in four years.  The current Jewish settler population of 300-350,000 in East Jerusalem will likely grow at the same rate.

Greater Israel has every appearance of being a fait accompli,   This sad fact raises the question of whether the non-Jewish Palestinian population of Greater Israel will be ever be afforded basic human civil rights including the right to vote.  Half a century is certainly far too long to wait to be treated like a human being.   Even the most complicated military occupation in history, the US occupation of Italy, Germany, and Japan at the end of World War II, was ended in less than eight years.   After helping rebuild infrastructure and civil institutions, the US returned full sovereignty and all territory to its three former enemies.  Despite its 48 year military occupation, Israel has accomplished none of those tasks.  Instead, it has illegally seized more and more Palestinian land and property, while transferring greater and greater numbers of its Jewish citizens into Palestine to solidify its seizure of Greater Israel.

The current population of the Greater Israel is about 12.9 million: 6.2 million Jewish Israeli citizens, 2.1 million non-Jewish Israeli citizens, and 4.5 million non-Jewish Palestinians who are not recognized by Israel as its citizens even though they’ve been under Israeli occupation and control for 48 years.  In next week’s election, 48 percent of Greater Israel’s population, Israeli Jews, will be allowed to vote, as will the 16 percent who are non-Jewish citizens of pre-1967 Israel, the so-called Arab Israelis.  The remaining 36 percent, the non-Jewish, mostly Muslim Palestinians, who live in the West Bank and Gaza, will be excluded from voting as they have been in all prior national elections since 1967.

Jewish Israelis who live in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, and who now comprise about 20 percent of the West Bank population, will be allowed to vote in this election even though they, like their Palestinian neighbors, live outside the borders of pre-1967 Israel.  Basic human civil rights, including the right to vote, are extended only to Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Muslims, Christians, Druze, and other non-Jews apparently don’t qualify for these rights.

As many have pointed out, Israel faces a conundrum: If it insists on having its Greater Israel, including the occupied territories, it must also accept the 4.5 million non-Jewish inhabitants of those territories as fellow citizens and afford them the same civil rights, including the right to vote, it affords its Jewish Israeli and Israeli citizens.   If it fails to do so, as it has for nearly half a century, it richly deserves the label of  apartheid state.

Stephen Roberts, the former chancellor of Brown University and a Jewish-American and major life-long supporter of Israel, concluded in 2012, after a humanitarian aid trip to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, that “… Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids.”  Americans in general, and Jewish Americans in particular, need to face up to this hard reality.  The Israel of their dreams does not reflect the reality and brutality of today’s Israel, which certainly does not share or reflect the values of our own democracy.  The Israel of today is a country that has brutally occupied and controlled millions of non-Jews for nearly half a century while denying them the most basic civil rights including the right to vote.

Congress’s contemptible fawning support for this atrocious behavior needs to stop.  We need to send a strong and clear message to our fellow citizens and to our representatives in Congress that Israel’s abhorrent behavior is immoral and unacceptable.  Israel must end its apartheid-like control of the Palestinians and allow them to have a nation of their own along the internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders, or it must accept non-Jewish Palestinians as equal citizens with all the rights and privileges currently afforded to Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis, including the right to vote.

The Palestinian people have been waiting and fighting for their freedom and a state of their own for nearly half a century.  They’ve waited long enough.  Israel must either give them full citizenship rights as fellow Israelis or give them their freedom.  In a few days, Israel’s will hold an election which will exclude over a third of its population, making a mockery of its claim to be democratic.   It is high time we shouted that unpleasant fact from the rooftops of Congress.

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WHY THEY FIGHT: 47 YEARS A SLAVE – TO ILLEGAL ISRAELI OCCUPATION


Palestinians have been waiting for their independence for almost a century.  At the end of World War I, Palestine, which had been a colony of the Ottoman Empire, was occupied by the British army.  Palestine’s population was then 93 percent indigenous Palestinians and 7 percent Zionist Jews, mostly recent immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, working, with British consent, to establish a Jewish home in Palestine.

After the war, the League of Nations converted the Middle East colonies of the defeated Ottoman Empire into mandates, each supervised by a European power which had the duty to bring its mandate to the point of independent nationhood.   The mandates of  Syria and Lebanon went to the French, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine to the British.  Iraq became an independent nation in 1932, Syria and Lebanon in 1944, and Jordan in 1946.

In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan for ending the Palestine mandate that allotted 56 percent of the land for a Jewish state but only 43 percent for a Palestinian state even though Palestinians comprised two thirds of the total population and owned over 90 percent of the land.  The plan also gave most of the coastline and prime agricultural areas to the proposed Jewish state.  The Zionists accepted the plan while the Palestinians understandably rejected it.

When fighting broke out, the UN and the US, convinced partition was unworkable, began exploring binational solutions.  But, by mid-1948, the Zionists had conquered more than half of Palestine.  As the last British troops departed, the Zionists declared their independence as the Jewish state of Israel under the provisions of the UN partition plan.  US recognition of the new state made the partition of Palestine a fait accompli. 

By the end of 1948, Israel had conquered and occupied almost 80 percent of Palestine and had evicted or ethnically cleansed over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands, forcing them into refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, or the West Bank and Gaza. The remaining 22 percent of Palestine not occupied by Israel became a colony of Jordan, once again depriving the Palestinians of independence and statehood.

In its 1967 Six Day War, Israel conquered and occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.  It now controlled the entirety of Palestine including the original 43 percent designated by the UN partition plan for the Palestinian state.  Israel, as an occupying military power, had a duty to withdraw from the Palestinian land it had occupied and return it to its rightful owners, but it refused to do so.  Instead, it immediately began treating the occupied Palestinian territories as an Israeli colony, transferring its Jewish citizens into all-Jewish settlements, while evicting more and more Palestinians from their homes, confiscating their land, and subjecting them to harsh military rule.

The Palestinians rejected Israeli colonization, demanded their independence, and soon began a violent revolt against Israeli occupation of their land.  Lacking the sophisticated and modern weaponry of the Israeli armed forces, the Palestinians resorted to asymmetric or guerilla warfare, including acts of terrorism, tactics commonly used by weak insurgents fighting wars of independence against powerful colonial occupiers.

Israel responded savagely, using all the tools employed by colonial powers attempting to maintain their hold on valuable colonies, including random arrests, torture, assassinations, indefinite imprisonment without trial, house demolitions, mass detentions, collective punishment against civilian populations, strict military rule, and other oppressive measures that violate international law and are sometimes labeled “state terrorism”.  These tactics have proved successful.

During the past 47 years, the Palestinians have tried both violent and nonviolent resistance with no success, and the UN, the US, the EU, and other European nations have tried for decades to resolve the conflict.  Despite those efforts, no Israeli government has been willing to withdraw completely from the occupied territories to allow the Palestinians full independence and a state of their own on the remaining 22 percent of Palestine.  Instead, Israel has greatly increased its illegal land seizures and evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  According to a recent statement from Israel’s Housing Minister, there are now about 750,000 Israeli Jews living in settlements on Palestinian land and that number is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2019.  Based on recent statements from the leaders of its major political parties, including its prime minister, Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories which it considers to be part of a Greater Israel it inherited from Biblical times.

As observers to the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, we need to ask the right questions and avoid accepting the narrative that Israel wants us to accept: that it is a beleaguered country merely defending itself from mindless terrorists who aim only to kill Israeli civilians.   In reality, the Palestinians, including Hamas, are fighting for their independence from a brutal oppressive colonial power, Israel, who took all their remaining land in 1967, has settled massive numbers of its own Jewish civilians on their remaining land, and refuses to give them even 20 percent of that land to create the independent state of Palestine they have been promised since the end of World War I.   If that was happening to me, I’d be willing to fight and die for the independence of my people, wouldn’t you?

It’s high time we started looking at the Palestinians as freedom fighters, struggling to achieve their independence and a state of their own from an oppressive colonial power, Israel, who is unwilling to allow that to happen.

How can we, as Americans, support the Palestinian struggle for independence.  By being vocal in our criticism of Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinians to have a state of their own on the West Bank, by writing letters and emails to our congressional representatives telling them to stop their blind, unwavering support of Israel and its oppression of the Palestinian people.   By having the courage to tell American Jews that their unquestioning support of Israel and its oppression of the Palestinian people is immoral and that they  need to tell the Israelis that while their support of the state of Israel is unconditional, they cannot support immoral and oppressive actions and policies of its current government.

Americans, including Jewish Americans, stood up for the rights of Black South Africans to have equal rights and freedom and ultimately forced our own government to pressure the white South African hierarchy to give black South Africans equal rights.  It’s high time Americans stood up for the rights of Palestinians to be free of Israeli oppression and to have independence and a nation of their own.

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