Sheldon Gottlieb’s vociferous letter suggests a new McCarthyism. It levels unfair allegations at any who criticize Israel for its appalling occupation and treatment of the Palestinian people. Here again is the accusation that anyone who criticizes Israel’s policies is anti-Semitic. Yet how can this be, when from 1975 to 1991 the United Nations General Assembly held (rightly, in my view) that Zionism itself is a form of racism?
What I find odious is the ease with which the label “anti-Semitic” is hurled at those of us who are simply raising our voices against actions of the Israeli government that we consider to be little short of criminal. Such a strategy seems designed to distract and confuse while attempting to defend the indefensible.
Nelson Mandela frequently declared that “Palestine was the greatest moral issue of our time,” for which even he was called anti-Semitic. But such efforts to discredit and destroy Mandela’s character did not deter him. Indeed, he went further, saying, “We South Africans cannot consider ourselves free until the Palestinian People are free.”
Now, I ask, how can anyone justify Israel’s gruesome assault on the people of Gaza during the fifty-one nightmarish days of Operation Protective Edge? According to the United Nations, 2,131 Palestinians were killed; of those, 501 were children. Some 10,918 were injured, and 10,920 houses were damaged or destroyed. Eight hospitals were damaged or destroyed, with six being taken out of service. Some 46 nongovernmental organizations, 50 fishing boats, 161 mosques, and 244 vehicles were also bombed. Even after the conclusion of that assault, Israeli cruelty in the West Bank continued.
Will the Real Humanists Please Stand Up?
Israel’s crimes go against humanist principles, decency, and basic justice. Especially in America, members of the public are inadequately informed, thanks in part to a powerful pro-Israel lobby that strongly influences the U.S. Congress, the media, think tanks, and public opinion. Corporate media, for their part, tend to cover the Middle East in ways that deny the humanity of the Palestinian people and prevent the American public from seeing the issues clearly.
It is hard to quantify the psychological effect that forty-seven years of occupation have had on the Palestinians. Imprisonment is widespread—20 percent of all Palestinians and almost 40 percent of Palestinian men have been imprisoned at some point during their lives. Torture is commonplace. Palestinians suffer also from harsh restrictions on their freedom of movement and the systematic denial of their national identity. Such is everyday reality for Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation.
Could anyone say that it is hasty to call for the simple implementation of dozens of United Nations decisions and Security Council resolutions that direct the rights of the Palestinians to be respected? The people of Palestine want to live in a free and independent state of their own. In my view, anything short of an end to the Israeli occupation, a return to a Palestinian state with borders as they existed in 1967, and a commitment to share Jerusalem as an open city would be a vote in favor of occupation, oppression, and colonialism.
Guillermo Kuhl emigrated from Nicaragua to the United States in 1978 because of the Somoza dictatorship. He now lives in Atlanta, where he and his wife are raising a family committed to social justice.