As a progressive with a long track record of working for individual human rights, my peers often react with shock and disbelief when I publicly express my support for the only country in the Middle east that protects the rights of its gays, minorities and women. Often I'm treated as though I brought veal to a PETA pot luck. Its an uncomfortable feeling, here in "more politically correct than thou" northern California.
On the other hand, it baffles me that my peers so readily and unquestioningly accept the classic fascist regimes of Hamas and Hezbollah. How did this happen? How did repressive, totalitarian regimes come to enjoy liberal support in America , while liberal democracies are rejected?
Sales and Marketing, my dear Watson. Sales and marketing.
Realizing that their articulated goal of driving the Jews into the sea wasn't helping them make friends and influence people, the Palestinians have been employing the rhetoric of victimization to further their agenda.
In History Upside Down, David Meir-Levi writes:
Ho Chi Mihn's chief strategist, General Giap, made it clear to Arafat and his lieutenants that in order to succeed, they too needed to redefine the terms of their struggle... "Stop talking about annihilating Israel," advised North Vietnam's General Giap, "and instead turn your terror war into a struggle for human rights. Then you will have the American people eating out of your hand."
At UC Berkeley and on college campuses throughout the country, this approach is being used. "We are talking truth to power" , UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Batzien said recently to a group gathered to hear Norman Finkelstein and Jon Dugard speak at Boalt Hall. But with 22 Arab nations, with 800 times the land and 50 times the people and with extensive oil wealth, tell me again who exactly is in the position of power?
Arafat was also taught to exploit his situation by Muhammad Yazid, the minister of information in Algeria:
"Wipe out the argument that Israel is a small state whose existence is threatened by the Arab states, or the reduction of the Palestinian problem to a question of refugees; instead, present the Palestinian struggle as a struggle for liberation like the others. Wipe out the impression …that the Zionist is the underdog. Now it is the Arab who is oppressed and victimized in his existence because he is not only facing the Zionists but also world imperialism."
This strategy has certainly succeeded, at least on College campuses. How did this happen? Part of the answer is our own complacency. The organized Jewish community allowed our history and our heritage to be redefined for us. We allowed our proud movement of self determination, Zionism, to be turned into a pejorative. We allowed our communities to be redefined as "settlements". We allowed our pursuit of a peaceful resolution to a complex issue to be redefined into an "imperialist colonial struggle". We watched the other side frame its history unchallenged- "occupied territories", "siege of Gaza", "ethnic cleansing". Its time to take back our language, our words, our heritage. They are as much a part of our identity as our land.
We need to remind our community that in the present, as well as the not so distant past, the worst enemy of the Palestinian people has been the Palestinian leadership. We need to remind people that destroying Israel is not the way to help the Palestinian people- that the Palestinian people need to be empowered to shake off the yoke of those willing to use them as pawns in this struggle. We need to remind people that true progressives should challenge all those who restrict individual rights and liberties, and that Palestinian despots will not be given a free pass.