Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

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Don't Tread on Me
Last uploaded : Monday 3rd May 2004 at 02:07
Contributed by : The Editor


Tonight we are learning that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?s Likud party membership, in a national Referendum, has resoundingly rejected his Gaza pullout plan. In the same day, Palestinian terrorists ambushed a car in which a pregnant Jewish woman was riding with her four young children. All were gravely wounded and were finished off with bullets to the head.

Both events are top stories on the news stations of both terrestrial and cable television here in Great Britain.

I have been trying to stand in the shoes of Likud members and of all Israelis on this tense Sunday. It has not been difficult to do so. During the past eight weeks or so I have been suffering conflicting emotions. Imagine what it is like being an American and a Jew living in a country in which anti-Semitism is on an officially-acknowledged ?sharp upswing.? Imagine what it is like being an American in a country and in a European community that was so virulently and universally opposed to the invasion of Iraq.

In the past eight weeks Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli Atom Spy (they get electrocuted for this in the USA) has been released by one of the world?s great and true democracies after eighteen years in prison. He is free because Israel is a democracy, despite what my British contacts tell me over angrily-spluttered dinner portions.

In this same time period the Iraq war has degenerated into a terror war that has made yet another Arab country into a killing field. Golda Meir helped African countries and ORT, the Jewish-Israeli charity, helps anyone in need around the world. So does the USA, but in doing so the countries receiving the help resent the generosity and send their insurgents to kill the gift horse. I remember a young black South African telling my Progressive Jewish humanitarian group in a 1997 visit to his country that organisations like the Nation of Islam were infiltrating his school and indoctrinating the children with tales of the evils of the Jews during Apartheid. No, not the evils of the Afrikaaners but the evils of the Jews. Never mind Helen Suzman, Joe Slovo, Ruth First and other brave Jewish anti-apartheid campaigners -- the JEWS were the culprits. This young black man, whose name was Moses, said, ?It looks as if we are killing the golden goose that gave us so many gifts.?

So, in Iraq the Americans are getting the brunt of Arab anger. When the contract workers were killed by burning and mutilation and then strung up on a bridge, the media were quick to brand the victims ?mercenaries.? They had families and mothers and bills to pay, but the image projected was of greedy con-men out to make a quick buck at the expense of the Iraqis. One newspaper fretted that ?thirty to forty Israeli companies are reported to be in Iraq.? Why not rejoice that brilliant workers from a tiny nation light years ahead of any local fiefdom are pouring in to join the Americans in helping to bring the benighted Mesopotamians into the twenty-first century? No, the demon Jews and Yanks were at it again: trying to help, but what an evil presence they are?.

The European media have been relentless in their condemnations of Israel and the USA in recent months. I had to laugh when I heard today that the American authorities are not providing free facilities this year for foreign press at the Republican and Democrat summer Conventions. If one calls the USA a 'rogue nation' time and again can one expect a week of freebies in return?

In this eight weeks Israel has assassinated Sheikh Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi as well as agreeing a deal with President Bush to vacate the Gaza Strip. The rage in the Arab world about the Gaza deal is perplexing. I thought they wanted Judenrein! No, it is not enough for all Jews to be evacuated from their homes in Gaza; they must leave historic Judea and Samaria. All right, let?s get them safely out, so that the West Bank can be Judenrein, too. But a somewhat perverse thought came to me: is it a source of pride to the Arab world that not one Jew can live in peace when they have a house or apartment anywhere near a Palestinian village? Imagine if non-Jews in Stamford Hill, or Crown Heights, or in other heavily Jewish enclaves had to leave because they were constantly being attacked by Jews?

Yes, I know the West Bank is considered occupied territory but the world seems to have forgotten that in 1967 Israel once again faced annihilation by the Arab world and fought a miraculous war against seven armies and won. Contrary to what London Mayor Livingstone believes, Israel won a war for her very survival as various cowering armies fled, leaving masses of new territory in Israeli hands. Mayor Livingstone told me ?we choose to differ? on this small matter. It is history: Israel won, and as Rumsfeld pointed out in August 2002, kept some real estate won from people in a neighbourhood who wanted -- and still want -- to destroy her inhabitants. When I have tried to explain to angry non-Jews who vent their special kind of fury on me when ?Israel? is mentioned that a million Arabs live inside Israel, they become even more luminous with rage. When I ask why the evacuation of settlers from the West Bank and Gaza isn?t ?ethnic cleansing? these same people become apoplectic.

My friends in Peace Now (and I do still value and treasure their friendship) will wonder why I have ?gone to the Right ? again. During the past eight weeks I have been at the receiving end of scary and visceral tongue-lashings about the evil USA and Israel. I try and try to tell myself that the loud, relentless (as in ?I cannot get a word in edgewise?) venom thrown at me about my native country and the Jewish homeland is not anti-Semitism. When I challenged a member of the Socialist Workers? Party at the anti-war rally in London a few weeks ago, she became enraged and completely out of control when I mentioned the Holocaust. She and her friends gathered around me and began laughing at me --yes, laughing -- when I tried to explain to them the cataclysm that was the Shoah in the context of the history of the Jewish State.

And speaking of the Jewish State, I saw a column this week in one of the piles of papers I try to read without permanent damage to my health that expressed revulsion at ?this expression, "the Jewish State."? If the idea of a tiny enclave for the remnant of world Jewry nearly exterminated from the earth by the non-Jewish world is now so repugnant that it engenders ?revulsion? in the same non-Jews then we are entering a truly dangerous era for Israel and the entire Diaspora.

It was gratifying to me to hear the eminent British journalist and author Melanie Phillips talk about the new anti-Semitism this week, a talk presented by the London Society of Jews and Christians. Like me, she sees a concrete threat to Jews in Great Britain. I shut down when the 'opposing view' by Anthony Lerman was presented; he gave the usual head-in-the-sand opinion that we who are paranoid imagine demons around us. Well...

A year ago I attended a studio recording in London of a televised debate about the Iraq war. An elderly Scotsman got up and shouted at me ?You people (America) deserved what you got on 9/11 and I hope you get it in the neck ten times worse next time around.?

I am rambling. Forgive me.

Getting back to my original premise: I was inspired to write this editorial because of the defeat of Ariel Sharon in today?s Likud party referendum on the Gaza pullout. The Arab media, as well as most of the British papers (Robert Fisk?s opinion in ?The Independent? was a frightening rant that bordered on the unhinged but revealed his true loathing of Israel) expressed universal outrage when Sharon and Bush shook hands on the Gaza agreement. The European and Arab papers have an obsession about ?the butcher of Beirut? (Sharon) ; have they forgotten Black September and Jordan?s slaughter of Palestinians? Why is Assad not ?the son of a butcher? who killed so many in his time? The obsessive hatred of Sharon for the 1982 Sabra and Shatila events reminds me of kids I encountered in school who reminded me that I was descended from Christ-killers and was therefore human poison deserving of nothing good in my life and destined for eternal hellfire and worse in death.

So, if the people who want Jews and Israelis to be reasonable about the West Bank and Gaza would like them to smile and be friendly, it might help to make them feel that they, too, deserve a few nice things.

Lately all newspapers, when introducing a story about a Palestinian or Arab resident of a Middle East or Gulf country, open the story by describing the protagonist as ?a refugee from historic Palestine driven from her home in 1948? or ?a descendant of a refugee forced from his house by Jewish settlers in 1948.? Nowhere does the European press explain the history of that terrible period, when the Holocaust inspired well-meaning non-Jews to push for a homeland for the remainder of world Jewry. European papers have complained in recent years that ?the right of return? of Jews to Israel is an outrage, whilst all Palestinians must be allowed to have back the houses for which they still hold keys. Why do these same Europeans, who flocked to see ?Fiddler on the Roof? and wept as Tevye and family were forced out of their village, not offer back the millions upon millions of homes of Jews uprooted by expulsions and pogroms and massacres throughout two thousand years of European (and more recently Arab, North African and Gulf) history?

In these recent weeks I have been made aware in no uncertain terms and on many occasions that I do not deserve a homeland and that my native country is an abomination. The Likud members in Israel are looking out at a world that hates the Jewish State and wants it to perish from the earth. The Founding Fathers of my nation commanded that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the right to defend oneself shall not perish from the earth. If I in London can feel under threat, imagine what Israelis and American troops are feeling tonight.

No Israeli will be bullied into peace talks. When I lived in Israel, it was a happy time when Oslo was steaming ahead and the Israeli economy was booming. During that hopeful period Palestinian and Hezbollah attacks were non-stop. No matter what America or Israel tries, terror is the gift. The al Qaeda attacks in Africa and 9/11 happened after eight years of Clinton-era euphoria, when America was loved by most of the world.

Now, there is a rising and relentless tide of sentiment that says Israel and the USA are at the root of world unrest. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy to Iraq, says Israel is the ?poison? causing the instability of the Middle East and Gulf.

Jews have been blamed for every evil thing for thousands of years. Israel, however, was created by New Jews. They will not be vanquished without a fight. Generous Americans ( I do not buy the business about ?Iraq was for the oil?) will not be terrorised either , and in the colonial parlance of Benjamin Franklin, they will say to the world:

?Don?t tread on me.?


We highly recommend the website of Melanie Phillips:

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