Sunday, 14 October 2007

Israel Palestine - The Euro View

Following recent debates, Cody and I have decide to do a concurrent post on the topic of the Israel Palestine conflict and put forward our view on why there is a difference of opinions on either side of the Atlantic. Cody's can be found here.

Plainly, there is today a vast gulf between European and American attitudes towards the Israeli Palestine conflict in the Middle East, but it is hard to recognise the argument that European sympathy for the Palestinians is no more than anti-semitism.
Such was a short lived attempt to paint any criticism in the media as anti-Jewish, a group of prominent British Jews broke away from the country's Jewish establishment, arguing that it puts support for Israel above the human rights of Palestinians, smashing the dangerous myth that if you criticise Israel, you are criticising Judaism as well.
The media gives us the facts and we have to decide whether to accept, refuse or set about hunting for our own take on them.
Our press does have left and right leanings but it was Sky News, owned by the Murdoch Corporation and one of the most right wing pro-American media’s we have here, that was the largest critic of Israel’s actions in Lebanon a few summers back.
In America, the powerful ‘Israel Lobby’ is blamed for influencing the dearth of facts that the media put out to the American public. Ex President Jimmy Carter said: “The many controversial issues concerning Palestine and the path to peace for Israel are intensely debated among Israelis and throughout other nations - but not in the United States.”
In this weekends newspapers, Tony Blair was quoted as saying that after his visit to the West Bank that he was shocked and taken aback at the depth of the Palestinians' distress caused by the occupation.
So is the lack of sympathy in Europe for the Israeli cause down to the full facts being presented in our media and not in America because of the shady Israel Lobby?
Could it be that to criticise Israel’s actions in America is to invite being called out as anti-semitic while we here have no such problem and are much more freer to berate anyone we see meeting out punishment we deem as in breech of Human Rights?
The Palestinians are criticised just as heavily here when they fire rockets into Israel but as Israel is seen as an occupying army illegally seizing and building settlements on Palestinian land, defying UN resolutions, killing innocent Palestinians with rocket attacks, holding over 9000 Palestinians in its prisons, destroys farms, bulldozes homes and businesses, builds a monstrous wall deemed illegal by the international court of justice that moves another 10% of Palestinian land onto Israel territory amongst numerous other violations, maybe Israel just has more to be criticised for.
You cannot make an informed decision without all the facts as was shown by the Iraq adventure but with the shrinking of the global community, the days of what we hear and see being controlled by the media is coming to an end.
Whether we want to go looking for an alternate view is another thing altogether.
For an American view on this subject CODY BONES



annie said...

it is extremely difficult to be an american that is sypathetic to palestine in any manner. it's practically bred into us to be pro-israel. looking back, it's just the way it's been, all of my life. the standard opinion seems to be this: israel-very good-palestine-very bad. anyone who dares to question israel's actions is automatically labeled anti-semite.

my compassion for those that suffer is not limited by a specific belief system. far from it, since i see those belief systems as the root cause of the endless suffering.

Miz UV said...

I support Israel, but it's probably more that I'm (sort of) Jewish and am raising my children Jewish than what I'm "supposed" to believe as an American. After all, I don't believe in any god, and I'm "supposed" to do that. Of course I don't agree with every Israeli action, but in general I support Israel's continued existence and its right to defend itself.

I disagree with the idea that anyone who criticizes Israel is necessarily an anti-Semite. Some are, for sure. But plenty of Jews criticize Israel, including ones who live there. However, if you follow up your criticism of Israel with some comment about greedy Christ-killers who control all the world's money and media, well, then maybe I would wonder about you. Or if your name rhymes with Gel Mibson. ;)

Daniel said...

Annie put her finger on it. She was brought up to laud Israel! She is typical of Americans generally.

The holocaust that the Israelis have visited upon the hapless Palestinians is unforgivable and should be condemned by every nation and individual in the world.

Joe the Troll said...

While I'm sure that the difference in opinion is a mix of many factors, I think the strongest, for us, is something that Cody hit upon in his essay. Jewish people have assimilated into American society far more than their Muslim neighbors, and the opposite seems to be true in Europe. Also, as started above, we are brought up with it. After all, the Holocaust builds a very sympathetic portrait at any age, and that is what the teachers make sure of when presenting it as part of a history lesson (no criticism of that whatsoever is implied).

Lucyp said...

I did think that one of the strongest influences was the fear of being labeled anti-jew if you dared criticise Israel. What i was not expecting was the explanation that being pro-Israel is drummed into Americans from an early age.
That is a powerful influence and one of the many criticisms thrown at Muslim countries for influencing their young minds the other way.
As with religion, a mind that is continually targeted with one ideal is always going to be very hard to reach and draw back to a balanced view.

Jefe said...

"What i was not expecting was the explanation that being pro-Israel is drummed into Americans from an early age."

That definitely wasn't the case for me, and I'm surprised to read it was for other Americans. I was raised to understand the horror of the Holocaust, and therefore to be sympathetic to the plight of an entire race of people. But I certainly had no opinion on the country of Israel until I was in college, and even then it was minimal. I wonder if the people who talk about being pro-Israel from an early age actually mean they were pro-Jew at an early age, and later in life saw the race and the country as interchangeable.

One thing I find fascinating is the relatively abrupt change in language and alliance as it pertains to this topic. As long as I can remember, the words "Jew" and "Liberal" were intertwined. As a matter of fact, a common phrase was "Jew-run Liberal media." Anti-Semitism was ascribed to the far-Right, not the Left. Now I read a comment from Daniel on your last post that says, "The reason Europe sees Israel differently to America is the strength of the Jewish Lobby in America. And their money!" and I think, wow, how times have changed.

Joe the Troll said...

Perhaps some clarification is in order. I wouldn't say that a pro-Israel mesage is "drummed" into us the way you suggest. It is certainly not the type of "destroy-Israel and America is the great white Satan" stuff that some Islamic schools "teach." It is more like Jefe said - we are taught about WWII and the Jews are shown, as they should be, in a very sympathetic light. When you are young and you learn about the Holocaust, it is a message that most of us absorb very deeply. I don't know about anyone else, but the whole Israel/Palestine thing is taught very briefly if at all in our primary (meaning through high school) educations. I certainly don't want to give the impression that anyone here is having an anti-arab message drummed into them in school, at least not in my time. Perhaps that's happening in a lot more homes these days, however.

Anonymous said...

I am swedish and had nothing drummed into me concerning the palestinians or israelies from any age. I made up my own mind about where my sympathies lay. My question is do the americans see a one sided view as a good thing and would they challenge how they are taught in the schools to show a more balanced view of this topic.

annie said...

nobody ever instructed me to see israel as right. it was unspoken/accepted. it was just the way it was, as far back as i can remember. especially in my elementary (catholic) school.

Miz UV said...

My American public school experience was little to no Middle East history, and not much on the Holocaust either, just WW2 in general. (I'm 46.) I didn't have an opinion about Israel or other foreign nations at age 18 when starting college, and there I was treated to the typical leftwing views of issues. So I would say I was NOT indoctrinated by schools here to rah-rah for Israel. My support came later.

Lucyp said...

I have maybe misunderstood the comments above. I read it as the sympathetic view of Israel was part taught in school.
I was taught about the WW2 at school, the holocaust, concentration camps and Anne Franks diaries. I was shocked and felt immense sympathy for what the Jews went through at the hands of the German forces.
I don't let this sympathy colour my opinion of what is happening there today though to a people who had nothing whatsoever to do with what went before. This, to me as i cannot speak for Europe but hear it mentioned a lot, is a seperate issue to WW2.

Joe the Troll said...

Oh, absolutely it is. I'm just saying that as kids we absorb a very sympathetic view of Jews and keep that into adulthood, whereas we learn relatively little if anything about the Palestinians. As a result, in adulthood, the Muslims seem more removed from us - they're the strangers. At least, that's how I see it from my personal history.

Lucyp said...

That does lend itself to Cody's point about Muslism being less assimilated there and moreso here. I can understand how they would seem like strangers to you if you do not have much contact with them. It is a fascinating point to mull over.

Miz UV said...

Lucy, it might help to realize that America has lots of different kinds of people in it, and we haven't all received the same slant on our history lessons. My high school was in small-town Illinois, where a typical "redneck" attitude prevailed toward blacks, Jews, etc. (I was actually afraid to mention that half my family was Jewish.) There certainly was no public outpouring of support for Israel in that community, nor in Chicago where I lived and worked later (1979-1983). The Americans who are sympathetic toward Israel won't all have the same reasons or backgound.

Daniel said...

One of the problems is with the meaning of the word 'assimilation'. Just because a group of people live in a community in some country doesn't mean they are necessarily assimilated.

As with the Bretheren, they live and work in places all over the world but they do not believe they are part of their society. They believe that God will appear and lift them and them alone to heaven without dying (The Rapture). They marry each other and are very secretive.

People of most religious persuasions (including Jews who call themselves the Children of God) have similar fantasies about their special place in the world even if they don't often spell them out.

If people believe such discriminatory, superior things how can you then call them 'assimilated'?

Lucyp said...

Interesting data -

USA Jewish pop - 6,150,000
USA Muslim pop - 2,400,000

UK Muslim pop - 1,600,000
UK Jewish pop - 350,000

You are almost 3x more likely to meet a Jew than a Muslim in USA while you are almost 5x more likely to meet a Muslim than a Jew in UK.

Miz UV said...

Daniel, have you actually met Jews like that? The ones I know aren't the way you describe at all. Nothing is secretive, everyone is welcomed at temple (we go to a reform one), and there are loads of intermarriages. I hope you wouldn't judge us all by the words of a few obnoxious loudmouths.

Joe the Troll said...

"Just because a group of people live in a community in some country doesn't mean they are necessarily assimilated."

True. It's the correct word in this case, regardless.

As for the rest, that response became too large, so I have taken the liberty of doing a spin-off post. Just click on my magic name.

Cheezy said...

I think we all need to think about the language we use before we say stuff like "Jews think this..." or "Muslims are like that...", etc, etc.

It's not hard to inject words like "some" and "a number of" and "the extremists" etc, etc.

I find sweeping negative statements about one group of people (for example, Jews) just as objectionable and frankly stupid as sweeping negative statements about another group of people (for example, Muslims).

Obviously what they actually believe (well, 'some' of them anyway) is a bunch of hooey, but hey ~ I hate the sin/love the sinner... See: you don't have to be Christian to do that! :)

Lucyp said...

I have banged on relentlessly about being Jewish and being Israeli are seperate things. To condemn Jews for what Israel does is nonsense to me as condemning the Church of England for anything the English do is equally nonsensical.
I was really hoping that, as i view the two seperate, we would not get into the Jewish thing as it is just as bad to shout Jews are this or that when Israel does anything as to shout anti-semite when Israel is condemned. It is the same thing in reverse and very ignorant and dangerous.

O' Tim said...

Jefe wrote: As long as I can remember, the words "Jew" and "Liberal" were intertwined... Anti-Semitism was ascribed to the far-Right, not the Left.

I find that interesting as well, along with how much of the far-right's "anti-Semitism" has become all smiley-faced through the Christian Zionist movement. That's the pro-Israel fundies who shout their rah-rahs from the top of the mountain like "We support you to The End!" Of course The End is when Jesus splits up the goats and the sheep and all the unconverted Jews get thrown into the lake of fire.

Now we could really throw this debate into a tizzy by exploring the Christian Israel contentions about Semitic genealogy and who exactly is being "anti-ed."

Jack's Shack said...

I'd never say that Israel is without blame, but I am always shocked that so many Europeans seem to fail to be upset by daily rocket attacks on schools. Look at this video

And tell me what how one cannot respond. This is not a military target. This is a daily occurrence.

Lucyp said...

I agree Jack, the rocket attacks do deserve to be condemned and I have said many times it is the continued cycle of tit for tat that needs to be addressed because otherwise it is just going to continue forever.

JennyJinx said...

Interesting discussion. Sorry to be late to the party.

I was never taught to thing of Israel and all things Jewish as one. But then I didn't know the significance of Israel to the Middle East and the American government until I was an adult and became interested in politics.

I'm appalled that the Religious Right in this country has picked up Israel as their pet cause, simply because they want Israel to stand so that Christ can come back and all Jews can be converted to Christianity and the world can end. That's disgusting in my opinion. Bush shares that hope with many of his RR brethren, and so many conservative Jews think his support is so rah-rah great. I don't get it.

As far as the I/P conflict is concerned, I can see both sides. The Palestinians had their homeland stolen from them and handed to other people. So they do what any country would do if that happened- they fight back. Suppose Japan decided to take Hawaii, would America stand for it? And would they deserve to be called terrorists by the rest of the world for fighting for it? But then for so many Israelis that has always been home. It's two generations later and the fighting still continues. I can see why they fight to retain their land, too. I don't agree with the Israeli governments use of apartheid as a method of keeping peace, but what's the alternative?

I see so much discussion on this and so little said as a means to end the conflict. What about solutions instead of bickering and accusations? I sympathize with mothers on both sides because they can't be certain that their children will grow to adulthood. I want to see it end so that the mothers can have peace.

My solution, of course, is to give the Israelis Utah and let them settle there. The Mormons can happily attempt to convert millions more people and two groups of people will finally have peace.

Jack's Shack said...

The Palestinians had their homeland stolen from them and handed to other people

No they did not. There never was a Palestinian nation. There never was a Palestinian gov't run by Palestinians.

For that matter Jordan is a creation of the 20th century. It is a piece of land that was just carved out of "nothing" and called Transjordan and later Jordan.

But you never hear anything about this.

I agree Jack, the rocket attacks do deserve to be condemned and I have said


Part of my frustration and many others is that you rarely hear such things.

I won't say that Israel is without blame because that is not true, but at least you can criticize the gov't.

Criticize Hamas or the PA and they kill you.

When Hamas ousted Fatah they did it in the most brutal fashion you can imagine. They flung people off of buildings, set up firing squads etc.

And they did this to their own people. You can understand why their is concern about negotiating with them.