Sue Gray: Guest opinion
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It’s deplorable that David Kudish, a prominent and respected member of the Aspen and Chicago communities, crossed the line of civil discourse in his recent opinion piece (“A fountain of misinformation,” Feb. 13, The Aspen Times). It’s one thing to express one’s opinion on an issue, but quite another to personally attack another member of the community for offering a different opinion, and printing outright lies about a person enters into the realm of criminal libel.
Many people have told me they won’t speak out against Israel’s human rights violations for fear of being publicly denigrated. Thus verbal bullies succeed in preventing open debate on a topic that is critical to our national security as well as America’s reputation as a champion of human rights, freedom and democracy.
According to Congressional Research Service’s “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel” (www.ifamericansknew.org/dowload/CRS-AidToIsrael-2009.pdf), the U.S. gives Israel what amounts to $7 million in military aid every day. That in itself is not bad; however, some of that aid is used to harm and oppress Arab civilians, which is illegal under U.S. law and the international law of occupation. Plus, the 9/11 Commission Report found that one motivation for Arab terrorist attacks on Americans was U.S. foreign policy in support of Israel.
Isn’t it the right and duty of every taxpaying American, regardless of where we live, to question whether that policy meets our security goals and upholds our democratic ideals? Adverse government policies are rarely changed unless they are openly debated. Being that our local newspapers are an important instrument of democracy, it’s irresponsible for editors to publish personal attacks which discourage participation in their opinion pages.
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Astute Aspen Times readers will know that Mr. Kudish’s accusations against me have no validity. A review of my letters in the newspaper’s archives will reveal that I’m not the author of the quotes he attributes to me in his first two paragraphs, nor do any of my letters contain derogatory comments aimed at Jews or expressions of hatred for the state of Israel.
It’s my belief that Mr. Kudish’s vitriolic tirade stems from a zealous devotion to an idealized view of Israel that he feels is threatened by my repeated public exposure of Israel’s human rights violations. This is entirely understandable given that for most Americans, and perhaps Jewish Americans in particular, the only narrative they’ve ever heard frames the Middle East conflict as stemming from Muslim hatred of Jews and completely omits the existence of the occupation and dozens of U.N. resolutions against Israel’s violation of human rights and international law. To someone who staunchly believes Israel is “the most socially enlightened and most progressive culture in the region,” my letters exposing Israel’s crimes may appear like “the rantings” of “a disturbed malcontent who promotes an agenda of ‘hate Israel’ and despise ‘the Jews.'”
Mr. Kudish’s ugly generalization of Arabs as uncaring, unenlightened and inherently disposed to unprovoked violence also betrays deep-seated fear and uninformed prejudice. His claim that “they hate us because we refuse to submit” is without merit. Expressions of hatred emanating from the Arab world clearly have their basis in the suffering of fellow Muslims under Israeli and American occupation of their lands, and the violence that our armies perpetrate on their populations. Let me make it clear that though I understand what motivates terrorist acts, I don’t condone the use of violence or believe there is any justification for the atrocious crimes by Arabs against Israeli and American civilians.
Maybe if Mr. Kudish had the opportunity to experience the warmth and hospitality of Arabs as I did when visiting Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams in 2002, he would understand they’re just like us. Arab men get up each day and if they’re lucky, are able to go to work to provide for their families, whom they love as dearly as we love ours. Arab women fear for their children’s safety and survival, and hope for a future of peace and prosperity for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They enjoy food, music, laughter and the company of friends. They worship the same god as Christians and Jews, whom they consider fellow “People of the Books.” Most Arab Muslims practice a religion of peace, tolerance and generosity.
Though Arab aid to Haiti went unreported in America’s mainstream media, a quick Internet search would’ve saved Mr. Kudish the embarrassment of accusing Arabs of “a deafening crescendo of silence, financial non-responsiveness and irresponsibility.” Among the Arab nations and organizations that provided millions of dollars plus food, water, clothing and medical supplies for Haiti’s survivors, are the Khalifa Foundation, the Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum Charity, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Kuwait. Qatar sent a 26-member rescue team to set up a field hospital. A Jordan Royal Air Force plane delivered the components for a military field hospital and 6 tons of food, relief items and medicine. Iran’s Red Crescent society delivered about 30 tons of humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile, Israel’s military blockade of Gaza has prevented much needed aid from reaching the 1.4 million people who’ve been imprisoned there for three years as punishment for their democratic election of Hamas. The portion of aid Israel has allowed to be delivered amounts to about 2 pounds (equal to one quart of water) per person per day; hardly sufficient to maintain the lives of impoverished and starving Palestinians.
Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, recently stated that Israel’s siege on Gaza amounts to genocide because according to the 1948 Geneva Convention, one form of genocide is the “deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a people in whole or in part.”
Conditions in Gaza are so shockingly horrific that leaders of many nations are pleading with the U.N. to make Israel end their blockade. Recently, organizations like Americans for Peace Now, The Methodist Church, and Rabbis for Human Rights, succeeded in getting 54 House democrats to call on President Obama to pressure Israel to end its blockade (Google: Ellison, McCollum and Oberstar). This shows that Americans don’t need to go to the Middle East to help free Palestinians from oppression. We can do it from the comfort of our own home, by using the telephone, computer, or plain old pen and paper.
Another way to induce Israel to comply with international law regarding human rights is by boycott, divestment, and sanctions. To encourage public participation in these efforts, starting March 1, the 6th International Israeli Apartheid Week will take place in more than 40 cities around the world (www.apartheidweek.org). The IAW is one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity movement’s efforts to bring about the end of the occupation.
Persuading Israel to end the occupation isn’t easy because, contrary to Mr. Kudish’s insistence that “Israel’s goal is co-existence with its Palestinian neighbors,” Israeli leaders have publicly stated their goal of expropriating Arab land to expand the Jewish state. Most recently Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu boldly proclaimed that land Israel has been taking by military force from the Palestinians since 1967 will forever remain Israeli territory. This undermines the ongoing negotiation process and threatens the possibility of there being an independent Palestinian state for Israel to co-exist with. To understand why, I suggest the American Friends Service short video “Israel-Palestine: A Land in Fragments” at http://www.afsc.org/israel-palestine.
My opponents accuse me of lying and spreading misinformation, but while they provide no verifiable independent sources to support their position, I encourage people to examine the evidence and decide for themselves. I recommend websites such as the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Occupied Palestinian Territory and the World Health Organization – Fact Sheet on Gaza, which prove that Israel’s violation of human rights and international law isn’t “theory” or “mere fantasy.” It’s a demonstrable fact that can be found in reports by impartial government and nongovernmental human rights and relief organizations, arbiters of international law and the Geneva conventions, and the public statements by world leaders including U.S. presidents Carter and Obama and South African President Nelson Mandela. Is it logical that all of them are liars or “uninformed and vile racists?” The mere fact that majority world opinion on Israel’s occupation/ blockade exactly matches mine, invalidates my opponents’ accusations of fantasy, fallacy and anti-Semitism.
With the unconditional support of the American government, Israel has been getting away with their relentless assault on the Palestinian population for over 60 years, while Americans have been kept in the dark about the atrocities being committed on a daily basis. There is no music industry “We Are The World” benefit for Palestine because we don’t see images of the total destruction of Gaza or brutal attacks by Israeli settlers on Arab children on their way to school in the West Bank. That’s why I must use painfully descriptive words in my letters. My goal is not to incite hatred of Jews, it’s to inspire compassion for the innocent victims of Israel’s unrighteous persecution, whose anguished cries never reach American ears.
To the individuals in our community who are terrified of Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and activists for peace and justice, here is some advice from Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”
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