Stopping the Insanity

When the bombing first started in Lebanon, one of my cohorts at uni sent an email to his fellow students asking for support in ending this horrible situation. I was on vacation in the US and, though I sought his permission to reprint his letter here, by the time I had proper internet access to post I was stupidly preoccupied with other things and forgot to do it, and then time went by and cease fire talks started and I wasn't sure how timely it was.

But now, in light of the whole bomb-the-planes-over-the-Atlantic thing, I decided that I really did need to put this up here. I'm angry at those terrorist bastards. They're really messing with my life, and I haven't done a dang thing to them. Sure, I'm pissed that I can't travel with my ipod or a bottle of water or a book to entertain me. And my job is dependent upon people wanting to travel, which is not helped by terrorism threats. But more importantly, trips home for holidays and for visitors who want to come see me just got a lot more complicated. I used to say a quick prayer of thanks when we got past Scotland or Nova Scotia, since that's where bombs used to go off. Now I will be praying every fifteen minutes just because my plane is still in the sky. And I can't choose not to fly...I live in England, most of my loved ones live in the US, and this isn't changing for a few years. And while it is lovely to imagine my steam trips home across the sea, the likelihood of me affording the time or money required for a ship are slim these days. (And I think I've mentioned that I hate puking.)

The author of the email I've included below is Palestinian. He's in my MBA programme as part of the engineering doctorate school at Cranfield and is sponsored by a major car manufacturer. He's friendly, bright, and has a great sense of humor. He does not "hate us for our freedom." In fact, he loves Americans and America...he goes there on holiday and embraces many of the values we do. He's lived in Britain his whole life, and though his Muslim/Palestinian background informs his life, it is not the only thing that makes him tick.

When terror plots get exposed, people immediately start talking about the Muslim extremists. They wonder why they hate us, how they could want to kill us in the name of religion, why they don't appreciate us intervening and saving them from tyranny. The email below explains why.

Text of email:

Hello, I hope this email finds you well.

You will have no doubt seen the terrible collective punishment being dished out in Lebanon and Gaza. I have watched as much of the news as I can again tonight and I must admit I'm reaching the end of my patience and so I have decided to write an email to vent some steam.

Tomorrow morning I am going to contact the top men in Cranfield and ask that any links with Israeli Universities and Corporations be suspended with immediate effect. I am contacting you now as soon-to-be captains of British industry to ask that you remember what the Zionist entity has done to Lebanon and take this into account when making your business arrangements.

There are some I'm sure that will be thinking of Hezbollah's rockets against Israel, but those people should keep in mind that the untargeted rockets of Hezbollah have killed all of one tenth of those killed by the so called precision/targeted bombs of Israel. Also, while Hezbollah and Palestinian militia hold three Israeli soldiers prisoner there are literally hundreds upon hundreds held in Israeli jails. Israel supporting by the USA with around $14 billion a year is the original aggressor.

At the bottom of this email you will find a link to the House of Commons address book where you will be able to find your MP. I urge you to contact him/her and demand that Mr Tony Blair grow a pair and do something. While he and his friends sit on their hands Lebanon in the words of the Lebanese PM and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is being "systematically torn apart"”.

I want to say now that I am biased, my family is Palestinian so you don't have to share my view but I hope you can find it in you heart to help the people of Lebanon and Gaza in anyway you can. When two buildings got knocked down in New York Mr Bush started World War 3, but that son of a bitch is more than happy to see innocent Arab women and children blown to bits.

Finally, if and when you encounter ignorant people that say that this will all blow over or that it isn't really any of their concern please remind them of Sir Isaac Newton'’s third law : "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction"”. In other words, some of the events we see around the world have a root cause and one of them is the disgust at the utter hypocrisy shown by Western governments. We can be sure that if a Western country was being bombed to hell Bush would have picked up the phone by now. This kind of thing makes it really hard for moderates to sustain an argument against more radical elements when it is clear for all to see that as far as the American regime is concerned some lives are apparently worth less than others.

I will stop there before I have a heart attack!

Thanks for reading,

Take care.

I am not here to question Israel's right to exist. I know the Israeli/Palestinian conflict goes beyond the current war, and that Israel struggles to maintain sovereignty in a region that wants to see it dead. I feel for Israelis who live with the daily fear of bombers at cafes or markets...I don't ever want to live like that and it makes me angry that anyone does. And I also feel for the Palestinians who've had their property, their land, and their livelihood taken in the name of Israel's "security," who live under house arrest in horrific conditions because they are the native inhabitants of disputed territory. If I could find some black and white answer that would solve the problem, I'd obviously be telling someone and getting ready for my trip to Oslo to collect my prize.

But I think it's important that we, as westerners whose governments unquestionably support Israel and who daily face an increase in global terror and general ill will, take time to understand our culpability in this situation. The emotions of reality get swallowed by the Bushies talking points and the right-wing media pandering, and everything becomes a wonkish policy discussion that bores the general populace into apathy. If reasonable people who condemn terrorists and their ugly behaviour are still angry with us for our foreign policy, imagine how the unreasonable people are feeling.

Like blowing our planes out of the sky, apparently.

Chances are that the readers of my blog are politically opinionated and know all of this already. (Except for Brad, who just thinks I'm unpatriotic. =) But I know it takes a lot to remind me to write a letter about things like this...most of my activism happens in conversation and blogging. In case you fall into that category, I thought I'd remind you that it wouldn't hurt to send some letters and get others talking about this so that the upcoming election and future foreign policy starts helping us solve terrorism, instead of just fighting it.

In case you don't already know, here's how to find your senator.


Pam said…
I fucking hate this war. Okay, that said, there's a problem with this letter. It's the "Zionist entities" thing.

The writer needs to be very careful about this kind of terminology. I'm not sure it doesn't border on racism.

Furthermore, I think it's become common knowledge that Hezbollah is backed by money from various places - top of the list right now are Iran and Syria. The Saudis have been questioned for ties to terrorism for YEARS now, but this writer doesn't call for immediate divestment from Saudi Arabia. (I suppose Saudi Arabia is the one that's really going to hit them in the wallet.)

I think the Israelis need to get the hell out of Lebanon. I also think that the folks who are calling on this for the outrage that it is need to take some responsiblity for helping the Lebanese break the grip of Hezbollah.

Okay, divest from Israel, but back that up with putting your money where your mouth is. Divest from the US, too, where unsustainable and just plain awful policy is happening. Divest from Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia. Divest from Britain, who's passive gov't has lined up behind the Bush adminstration's unsustainable policies.

Encourage the future captains of industry to invest in sustainable development projects in the occupied territories. They can build roads and schools and water treatment plants and power stations and and and and and... by investing in improving the lives of those people rather than by handing them guns, they'll improve the lives of ALL of us on the planet.

I have often thought that if the Israelis would take the money given to them by the US and invest it in improving infrastructure and services in the occupied territories, we would not be in this ugly mess today.

And while we're keeping things in mind, it is essential to keep in mind that the Israelis are not acting out of context. While again, I do not support their policies, many act as though Israel has all of a sudden turned in to a howling monster with no provocation. Yes, there was the recent kidnapping of the soldiers and this seems out of scale in the context of that event. But there have also been 60 years of terrorist attacks, of suicide bombings, of racist calls for the nation to be wiped off the map, of public transportation blown apart and innocent civlians - not Zionists - they were born there - being killed while having a beer at a sidewalk cafe. History is a bitch, there's no denying it. But use context to understand this situation.

Blanket finger pointing at "Zionist entities" is no better than blanket finger pointing at "Arab entities."

There is SO MUCH MORE that needs to be done.
Melinda June said…
Thanks for this, Pam.

You're right about the Zionist entities thing. I agree with everything you've said here.

I didn't print this letter because I agree with his points. I printed this letter because I'd never actually heard someone I like and respect talk like this. He's not a crazy. He's reasonable and normal and decent. And that's what's so scary about this for me.
Melinda June said…
Brad, my red state friend, couldn't get blogger to allow his comment, so he sent it to me in email...

As far as your friend is concerned, I’m sure he’s a fine fellow and all that but he seems to be spreading the liberal talking points that are so common in left-wing media pandering. There are many places on the web, and elsewhere, where the facts and history of this issue has been battered around and I’m not going to send you an 8 page missive.

But I believe the following, and am steadfast in that belief.

1. Israel is at war with Hezbollah, not Lebanon. The IDF works very hard to limit civilian casualties by the nature of the way Hezbollah fights makes them unavoidable. Everyone is free to wish for a pony, free beer, or no civilian casualties but all it will be is wishes.

2. Your friend makes a foolish argument when he counts up the victims on both sides. In war, like it or not, you kill as many of the enemy as quickly as possible. Wars have always been this way, and will always be.

3. Your friend blames the USA and Britain, but says nothing about Syria and Iran. If he was going to be honest when he says “…remember what the Zionist entity has done to Lebanon…” he would edit this to include both Syria and Iran, who have had much more a deleterious effect on Lebanon than either Israel or the USA.

Finally, do you really think things would change if the west stopped supporting Israel? If we took away our financial support and technical, financial, or intellectual collaboration? Do you really think that would be the right thing to do? Islamic militants in Palestine and Lebanon wouldn’t stop for a moment. Their goal is the destruction of Israel and, heavily funded and guided by Iran and Syria, their goal is to kill all the Jews and push them into the sea. I believe one has to get past all the media hyped stories and photos and answer that one simple question. Do you support Israel’s right to exist, or do you not? That is what this is about.

And no, I don't think you are unpatriotic. I just, respectfully, think you are wrong.
Melinda June said…
I don't think that the west should stop supporting Israel, though I DO believe that we don't have to rubber stamp this war. I think that we have resorted to lipservice diplomacy in the middle east and are just wielding a giant stick, and that is making everything much worse. Pam makes an excellent point...infrastructure and education in the occupied territories would likely be a better long-term defense strategy than military attacks.

My point here is that our unquestioning, militaristic approach to the middle east is creating more hatred and making the struggle for Israel's sovereignty harder. And our association is breeding hatred globally that we can't control, and yet we ask ourselves how we can be in this situation.

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