American attitudes toward Israel


Talking to a Wall:
Palestine in the Mind of America

By KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON (biographical information below)
CounterPunch.org, 2008-02-14

[The full text of this perceptive account
of the difficulty in revising American attitudes towards Israel.
Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

You would think that
showing maps clearly delineating the truncated, obviously non-viable area
available for a possible Palestinian state and
showing pictures that define Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories
would have some kind of impact
on an audience of astute but, on this issue, generally uninformed Americans.
We recently spoke to a small foreign affairs discussion group
and devoted much of our presentation to these images of oppression --
images that never appear in the U.S. media --
in the probably naïve hope of making some kind of dent in
the impassive American attitude
toward Israel’s 40-year occupation of Palestinian territory.

But our expectations that these people
would listen and perhaps learn something
were sadly misplaced.
Few among the elite seminar-style discussion group
seemed concerned about, or even particularly interested in,
what is happening on the ground in Palestine-Israel,
and the event stands as starkly emblematic of
American apathy about the oppressive Israeli regime in the occupied territories
that the United States is enabling and in many instances actively encouraging.

The maps that we displayed of the West Bank,
prepared by the UN and by Israeli human rights groups,
clearly depicted
the segmented, disconnected scatter of territorial pieces
that would make up the Palestinian state
even in the most optimistic of scenarios --
Palestinian areas broken up
by the separation wall cutting deep into the West Bank;
by large Israeli settlements scattered throughout
and taking up something like 10 percent of the territory;
by the network of roads connecting the settlements,
all accessible only to Israeli drivers; and
by the Jordan Valley,
currently barred to any Palestinian not already living there,
making up fully one-quarter of the West Bank,
and ultimately destined for annexation by Israel.

The maps make it clear that
even the most generous Israeli plan would leave a Palestinian state
with only 50-60 percent of the West Bank
(constituting 11-12 percent of original Palestine),
[That’s different from the Zionist understanding of what Israel offered—
something like 90 percent of the West Bank.]

broken into multiple separated segments and
including no part of Jerusalem.
The photographs, taken during our several trips to Palestine in recent years, depicted the separation wall,
checkpoints and terminals in the wall resembling cages,
Palestinian homes demolished and official buildings destroyed,
vast Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land,
destroyed Palestinian olive groves,
commerce in Palestinian cities shut down
because of marauding Israeli settlers or soldiers.

We have shown maps and pictures like these myriad times before,
but have never been received with quite such disinterest.
Here was a group of mostly retired U.S. government officials, academics, journalists, and business executives,
as well as a few still-working professionals --
all ranging in political orientation from center right to center left,
the cream of informed, educated America,
the exemplar of elite mainstream opinion in the United States.
Their lack of concern about what Israel
and, because of its enabling role, the U.S.
are doing to destroy an entire people and their national aspirations
could not have been more evident.

The first person to comment when our presentation concluded,
identifying herself as Jewish, said
she had “never heard a more one-sided presentation”
and labeled us “beyond anti-Semitic” --
which presumably is somewhat worse than plain-and-simple anti-Semitic.
This is always a somewhat upsetting charge,
although it is so common and so expected as to be of little note anymore.
What was more noteworthy
was the reaction, or lack of it, among the rest of the assembled,
who never disputed her charge
[perhaps they thought her charge was over-the-top
and so did not merit comment]

but spent most of the discussion period
either disputing our presentation
or trying to find ways to accommodate “Jewish pain.”
[Ach! Always back to the feelings of Jews.
Must always make that central to all considerations.
Just ask Arun Gandhi or Norman Finkelstein.]

Our brief conversation with this woman progressed in an interesting fashion.
We tried to engage her in a discussion about
what exactly was one-sided in our depiction of the situation on the ground
and what she would have liked to see to make it “two-sided.”
She did not answer but indicated that she thought
whatever Israel did must be justified by Palestinian actions.
[“Israel is never wrong” is manifestly the default reaction of American Jews.
Even the ADL cannot deny that without denying its own record.]

“Someone had to have started it,” she said.
We laid out a little history for her, noting that
the first action, the “who-started-it” part,
could be traced back to Britain’s Balfour Declaration pledge in 1917
to promote the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine,
at a time when
Jews made up no more than 10 percent of the population of Palestine.
Then we came up to the 1947 UN partition resolution,
which allotted 55 percent of Palestine for a Jewish state at a time when
Jews owned only seven percent of the land
and made up slightly less than one-third of the population.

Her answer was, “Well, but it wasn’t Jews who did this.”
We disabused her of this and briefly detailed
the deliberate Zionist program
of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population
conducted during 1947-48 war,
as described by several Israeli historians, including particularly Ilan Pappe,
whose The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
is based on Israeli military archives.
Her eyes actually began to bulge, but she held her tongue.
Apparently deciding that she had no way of refuting these facts,
she finally decided that going back in history was of no utility --
a common Zionist dodge --
and that Israel had not been established in any case to be a democracy
but was a haven for persecuted Jews and as such
has every right to organize itself in any way it sees fit.
The moderator finally called on others who wanted to speak,
and the discussion moved on.

But not very far.
The talk now circled, for over an hour,
around what passed for profound discussion: around
someone’s curious remarks about Zeitgeist,
someone else’s equally curious insistence that
there was “something out there that no one would talk about”
that was influencing the situation,
a few remarks about Palestinians as terrorists and how
even if Israel made peace with the Palestinians
Hamas would still try to destroy it,
a lot of talk about how to accommodate Jewish pain and, taking off from this,
a psychologist’s attempt to draw an analogy between
Jews who live in fear of persecution and
the rape victims she counsels
who live in constant fear that they will be raped again or worse.
[Ah yes, the feminist-Zionist mutual protection and reinforcement system.]

A few people did ask interested questions about
the situation on the ground and about
various aspects of Israeli policy.
After the discussion had centered for quite a while on Jewish pain,
one person pointed out that
Palestinians too feel pain and live in fear,
but no one else picked up on this.
[What a radical thought!
Taking the point of view of the Palestinians.]

No one challenged the first speaker’s personal charge of anti-Semitism against us,
and in the end there was almost no mention of
the destructive Israeli practices that had been the subject of our presentation.

We had occasion to email several of the participants the next day.
In one message,
we lodged a mild complaint with the three group organizers about the fact that
the charge of anti-Semitism was allowed not only to stand
but to set the tone for much of the discussion
[did it really?],
with no refutation of the substance of the charge by anyone except us.
In another message,
sent to a man who had expressed puzzlement over why the Jewish vote was thought to be important in U.S. elections,
we forwarded without comment an article from Mother Jones about
Barack Obama’s difficulties with the Jewish community and
his concerted effort to demonstrate his bona fides
by pledging fealty to Israel and justifying Israel’s siege of Gaza.

Finally, to the psychologist, we wrote a comment on
her analogy between Jews and rape victims,
observing that as a psychologist
she undoubtedly did not encourage her rape victim clients to
perpetuate their fear or
adopt an aggressive attitude toward other people,
but most likely gave them tools to help them regain trust
and move beyond fears for their personal safety.
This kind of
restorative therapy for Jews
has never been employed, we noted, but on the contrary
Israeli leaders and American Jewish leaders have
encouraged Jewish fears,
along with
an aggressive, militaristic Israeli policy toward its neighbors.
[Jews are the analyzers, never the analyzed (at least by the goyim).]

These were all gratuitous [one might say aggressive] overtures by us,
but they were not inappropriate or uncivil.
Yet not one of these people saw fit to answer our missives
or even acknowledge their receipt --
indicating, we can only assume,
the general level of unconcern among Americans
about the atrocities being committed against Palestinians,
including the siege and starvation imposed on Gazans.
Then, too, the lack of response
probably reflects feelings on the part of most attendees that
we are somehow responsible for having involved them in
a discussion that turned out to be fairly unpleasant for them.

Why is this interesting to anyone but us?
Because this in-depth discussion with
a small but representative group of intelligent, thinking Americans
is indicative of
a broad range of U.S. public opinion on foreign policy issues, and
their level of disinterest in
the consequences of U.S. policies

is quite disturbing.
The self-absorption evident during this meeting,
the general “don’t-rock-the-boat” posture,
the overwhelming lack of concern for the victims of Israeli and U.S. power
amount to
a license to kill for the U.S. and its allies.
The same unconcern allowed the United States to get away with
killing millions of Vietnamese decades ago;
it gives license to mass U.S. killing in Iraq and Afghanistan;
it is the reason Democrats still,
after seven years of Bush administration torture and killing around the world,
cannot fully separate themselves from Republican militarism.
It gives Israel license to kill and ethnically cleanse
the entire nation of Palestine.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst
and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years.
She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.
She can be reached at kathy.bill.christison@comcast.net.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA.
He served as a National Intelligence officer
and as director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

They can be reached at kathy.bill.christison@comcast.net.

Speech on the Mideast Brings Opinions to a Boil
New York Times, 2008-02-17 (Sunday)

[Paragraph numbers are added.]

Greenwich, Conn.

When people learn that
she speaks on the never-ending conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,
Alison Weir said at the beginning of her speech
at the Greenwich Library on Thursday night [02-14],
they want to know which side she’s on.
And, she said, she found that question off-putting because
it’s not a football game and
it’s not a matter of being on one side or the other
but of being true to the facts and sensitive to injustice in whatever form.

That said, it didn’t take someone trained in linguistics
to figure out which side she was on.

She began with a short film depicting what were characterized as
the malignant effects of Israel and the Israeli lobby
on the Middle East and the United States,
which included a quote from an American law professor
(a former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, it turned out),
who, invoking the Nuremberg trials, said that
Israel was inflicting on Palestinians
“exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews.”
[Compare this 1961 remark by the late historian Arnold J. Toynbee.]
There was a heart-rending tour of Palestinian communities,
each suffering child portrayed as a testament to Israeli aggression.

“Come to Palestine,” she read from a letter she wrote from Gaza.
It continued:
“Come with me and visit mothers of dead, injured, gone children —
thousands of them —
and tell them how you didn’t know we supplied the weapons
that ripped flesh, broke bones, destroyed lives, destroyed lives.”

It was your usual Valentine’s Day evening at the library
in this citadel of wealth and power —
three police cars parked outside and a simmering controversy over free speech.
It was, without doubt, a moment in Greenwich,
a place with its own complicated fault lines.
But by the end of the evening, it was hard not to think
it was a moment beyond Greenwich as well.

Ms. Weir, head of a group she founded called If Americans Knew,
has given perhaps 300 speeches since 2001.
She made two of her appearances at homes in Greenwich last year —
speaking once to a group of about 30 people and then to 15.

Chances are she would have made no more of a splash
at two planned gatherings at a meeting room at the local library last week
had the appearances not generated a flood of furious e-mail messages from critics.
The talks became a cause célèbre when the library board canceled them,
claiming they were “offensive to public sensitivity.”

But there were immediate assertions that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the library to censor some speakers and not others.
The meetings were rescheduled, moved from a conference room to an auditorium
that held a crowd of 300 on Thursday night
and about that number on Saturday morning.

What they heard was a skilled presentation by Ms. Weir,
a former journalist from Northern California,
that mixed fact, purported fact and advocacy to argue
not just that the United States was to blame for arming Israeli aggression,
but that the war in Iraq was largely the result
of neocons with strong ties to Israel supporting Israeli interests.
Much was heartbreaking, as documentation of torn Israeli bodies would have been had that been the subject matter.
Some was persuasive —
documentation of the relative attention given to Israeli deaths and casualties in the American media compared with Palestinian losses —
or undeniable,
like the billions of dollars in American financial support for Israel.

Some was enough to lead one audience member to grumble,
“I’ve heard enough of your propaganda,” and stalk out.
There were evocations of Uzi-toting Israeli soldiers
keeping Palestinians from going to a hospital for chemotherapy
or threatening to shoot out the eyes of people who displeased them.
There were no evocations of, say, Hamas terrorists
or the notion that the travel restrictions might have some relationship
to Palestinians celebrated and revered
for turning themselves into bombs meant to detonate
on buses, in hotels, cafes, universities.

Still, if the discussion was about Israelis and Palestinians,
it was hard to miss the atmospherics in the room as well,
the palpable split between Ms. Weir’s supporters,
who seemed to hang on every word,
and her critics, overwhelmingly Jewish, seething in their seats.

“The lady with the diamonds,” Ms. Weir said oddly,
taking a question from one of the critics,
and you had the feeling of one of those Fairfield County novels from the 1950s jarringly transmuted.

When the speech ended, Ms. Weir was met with thunderous applause,
and across the room there was a widespread sense of satisfaction
that someone was saying what needed to be said.

“It’s true that our money is going there to kill little kids,”
said one well-dressed woman,
who spent the speech nodding in agreement and gave only her first name, Jean.
“It’s the side we don’t hear, that doesn’t get on the news.”

You can’t read too much into one speech, but you might draw two conclusions.

the best favor people can do for a speaker they disapprove of
is to try to censor that person’s speech.

race isn’t the only subject in which there are really painful arguments,
in Greenwich and beyond,
usually left bubbling just below the placid surface of daily life.

[Philip Weiss has blogged about this event on
02-15 again,
02-17 (a commentary on this NYT article), and

Yes, There Is a Guerrilla War Against Zionism in the U.S.
What Should Jewish Institutions Do?

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-02-22

[An excerpt:]

When Congressman [Howard] Berman went into fits of denial
that there is an Israel lobby,
after saying that he joined the Foreign Affairs Committee
because he cared about Israel,
this was not honest.

'I've Lost My Analytical Center of Gravity'
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-10-03

[Its last two paragraphs; emphasis is added.]

My conclusion is that the discourse is completely broken in the U.S.
There is no dialogue between the conversations about this issue,
no consensus, no unity.
Alan Dershowitz is in the cloakroom and Norman Finkelstein is in the street,
and never the twain doth meet.
Lies are put forward by the American government regularly:
Joe Biden’s suggestion last night
that it was the Palestinians who somehow have to make the concessions.
When actually, when you delve into this,
you understand that the reality is different, that

Israel has been expansionist for more than 60 years
and yet has been portrayed as the victim throughout.

You develop enormous sympathy for the Arabs,
as Jimmy Carter has, and Alison Weir, David Bloom, myself.

I say again that

it is necessary to heal the Jewish narrative of victimization,
because it controls the American conversation about these issues.

We’ve all lost our analytical center of gravity.


Skip the lecture on Israel's 'risks for peace'
By George F. Will
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2010-08-19

[This might have been titled
“What it takes to become a Washington Post columnist.”
Some decades ago,
when Katherine Graham and Meg Greenfield ran the Post's editorial page,
Meg Greenfield somehow found two young conservative writers,
Charles Krauthammer and George Will.
She decided they would be just the ticket
to present the conservative point of view to Post readers,
and made them both regular columnists for the Post.
What stands out here to me?
Well, Meg Greenfield was Jewish, and both Krauthammer and Will
have reliably presented a pro-Israel point of view ever since.
Was that a coincidence?
To the ADL, of course.

Here is an excerpt from the middle of Will’s article
(emphasis is added>:

[T]he Sinai ... was 89 percent of the land captured
in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression.

[That’s the ADL position, all right, but it is a delusion.
To clarify this issue,
I have excerpted from Benny Morris’s book Righteous Victims in
1967 was not “a defensive war”.”
For a more complete analysis of this issue,
see Chapter Five and the Appendix to
Norman Finkelstein’s Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
The Appendix is a ~15 page critical review of the errors and misstatements in
Michael Oren’s Six Days of War,
which likely is the source of much of Will’s view of that war.

Here is how Will ends his article:]

The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state,
there having been no such state since the Romans arrived.
And if the Jewish percentage of the world’s population were today
what it was when the Romans ruled Palestine,
there would be 200 million Jews.
After a uniquely hazardous passage through two millennia without a homeland,
there are 13 million Jews.

[Let’s face it: Will is either ignorant or lies like a rug.
Many, many groups contemporary with the Hebrews of ancient Caanan
have lost all trace of their national or ethnic identity.
Just read, say the Historical Books Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings,
and see how many of the tribes mentioned therein survive to this day.
And if you want to talk about genocide,
see the references to what the Hebrews did to their enemies.
Look for the phrase “utterly slew” or the equivalent in your translation.

Those who like history might enjoy reading
Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History
which points out that
our view of much of what he calls the Syriac Civilization
is the Hebrew one;
that of, say, the Caananites or Hittites might portray things quite differently.

So please spare us the standard lie about
how unique the problems Jews have encountered are.

As to the 13 million versus 200 million comparison,
I don’t know where that figure of 200 million came from,
but something like it is perhaps correct.
(But again, how many groups have gone from a large number to zero?)
But a prime reason for the comparatively small number of Jews is self-caused:
their careful, cautious and prudent child-bearing policy.
They normally don’t have children
unless they know they can give them a decent upbringing.
Some call this a “high-investment parenting strategy.”
I remember a few years back a debate over abortion in Slate’s Fray,
where a woman who claimed to be Jewish said that
Jewish woman would not bear live children
unless they were reasonably confident they could be college-educated,
otherwise they would abort them.

Not exactly the parenting strategy of some more populous groups, is it?]

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent
of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,”
Israelis have never known an hour of real peace.
Patronizing American lectures
on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace,
which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

Many possible Israeli concessions would be suicidal
By George F. Will
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2010-08-22

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