Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

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Dear Ralph Nader,...
Last uploaded : Monday 10th Mar 2008 at 15:52
Contributed by : Carol Gould


9th March 2008

If one blinked or went off to make a cup of tea one would have missed it, but on Sunday 24 February, as I was waiting for the Oscar ceremony broadcast on British Sky, I switched to MSNBC and heard Ralph Nader utter a remarkable pronouncement on ‘Meet the Press.’ (It is transmitted at ten o o’clock on a Sunday evening in Great Britain.)

In the interview conducted by Tim Russert of NBC News, Nader, now a declared Presidential candidate, said the following:

‘.. [Obama’s] better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don't touch that, even though it's central to our security and to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate..’

This is the established line of the supporters of the Jimmy Carter ‘Israeli apartheid’ philosophy and of the Mearsheimer and Walt (they are the American academics who wrote a book about the ‘Israel lobby.’) theory.

Both in Britain and in the United States there is a movement to identify the Israel lobby as the root of all evil in American foreign policy and in the world at large. Vociferous and wealthy Jews have, according to them, nobbled successive administrations and compelled them to give massive aid to the ‘apartheid’ Jewish State ( never mind over a million Arabs live and work peacefully inside Israel) and more recently forced the Bush Administration to go to war in Iraq.

I mention ‘vociferous and wealthy Jews’ because the anti-Israel lobby likes to fancy itself ‘not anti-Semitic, just critical of the Zionist lobby.’ Inasmuch as my generation grew up hearing unspeakable stories from our grandparents and aunts about the unmitigated violence committed against them across Christian Europe at the turn of the century and then even more horrific stories about the Holocaust, do these critics of the Jews think Israel does not mean a great deal to a substantial number of people of the post-war generation? Equally, is anyone stopping an Arab organisation from visiting Congress to voice concerns about their region?

Ralph Nader makes a subtle point: he says the Israel-Arab issue cannot be articulated and is therefore a no-go area for the candidates. Perhaps this is self-preservation, Ralph: in 1968, Bobby Kennedy touched on the issue and was promptly assassinated by an Arab, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. Perhaps John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama know that the issues touching Americans’ hearts most profoundly are the mortgage crisis, jobs, the lack of health insurance and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. He is also insinuating that some sort of Jewish lobby quashes any useful discussion of the Mideast conflict. Inasmuch as Obama has raced ahead in the polls and would trounce John McCain were the national elections to be held today, the ‘Jewish lobby’ appears to have had no influence whatsoever. How may Jews are there in Vermont, Wyoming and Nebraska, some of the many states in which he triumphed?

Nader reminds us that Obama was a staunch supporter of the Palestinians whilst in the Illinois State Senate. Agitated and clearly barely unable to contain his rage, he goes on to say : ..‘Now he's supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn't have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli.’ So, Ralph, why don’t you go out there and start killing Jews to make the ratio more fair in your eyes? This same complaint was waged to me over and over again during the Lebanon war of July 2006, when very few Israelis perished in comparison with the Lebanese death toll. Israel happens to have developed, over sixty years of attacks from its hostile neighbours, a civil defence infrastructure that is second to none and that far exceeds the capabilities of the United States and Europe.

It is also unfortunate that Nader interprets the lack of discussion of the situation in Gaza by Obama with ‘supporting the Israeli destruction..’ In fairness to Obama he may support the Palestinian cause but he has never said he supports ‘destruction’ on either side. It should also be reported that the ‘destruction of Gaza’ has been perpetrated by many in te strip of land since the departure of Israeli troops and settlers. The settlers had established beautiful orchards and schools and had to abandon their homes and synagogues to comply with the complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The Palestinians have shown no interest in turning Gaza into a prosperous region, and the billons in aid sent to their rulers seems to disappear down a black hole. Whenever non-military aid is sent to Israel another school, hospital, art gallery, nature conservation project, symphony hall or theatre is established. Whenever aid is sent to the Palestinians we see tens of thousands of fit young men marching in formation wearing expensive clothing and leather boots and carrying costly machine guns.

Incidentally, Ralph, Gaza was captured by the Israelis during the Six Day War, as was the giant Sinai, and despite much blood shed by its soldiers the Jewish State returned these territories. Donald Rumsfeld commented in 2002 that he had never heard of a victor in war having to give back the lands conquered in a war of survival.

This week we have been learning about Samantha Power, Sen Barack Obama’s former foreign policy advisor who resigned after calling Sen Hillary Clinton a ‘monster’ in an interview with ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper. She has been reported to be a supporter of the Mearsheimer and Walt school of thought. She is out of Obama’s campaign but he has others in his circle who have not exactly been advocates for Israel. This has not stopped his momentum or the zeal with which so many voters greet him across that huge nation.

Another bizarre accusation levelled at Obama by Ralph Nader went like this: ‘..He's not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, ..and said Obama should be saying, "Let's have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress, so we don't just have a monotone support of the Israeli government's attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.’

When I was in Washington I noticed that American Friends of Peace Now had impressive premises with a fine leader, Lewis Roth, at its helm. One did not get the impression the Israeli or American peace movement was being muzzled by Congress. A large organisation in the United States of Jews for peace, Brit Tzedek, had a convention in New York during a blizzard when I attended, but that did not put the large audience off. ( I was told to ‘shut up’ by a British peace activist when I dared suggest Christian supporters of Israel should be nurtured, but that is another editorial.) Rabbi Michael Lerner has a large following for his liberal ‘Tikkun’ movement and Robert Fisk, a perennial critic of Israel, attracted appreciative audiences across North America. George Galloway, whose respect Party in the guise of Yvonne Ridley called Israel that ‘vile little nation’ at the December 2005 Global Peace and Unity Rally in London sponsored by the all-American Western Union, was not stopped from meeting supporters in the USA and Canada.

The suggestion by Nader that there is some force afoot to silence critics of Israel is absurd. I cannot think of any Jewish contact in Washington, left or right wing, who would work to prevent the peace movement from lobbying Congress. I have heard, on the other hand, the story of a man who was flat-hunting in Washington and was turned away when he told potential landlords he worked for the conservative ‘neo con’ ( as in pro-Israel) American Enterprise Institute.

Ralph Nader was my late father’s hero and was the first consumer advocate in the world. I do mention him when British friends and colleagues berate me about America’s lack of awareness of environmental issues, and I also mention Al Gore. No such campaigners have emerged from Europe and in this regard my hat is off to them.

It is reverence for my late beloved father that inspires me to provide the following priceless quotes from Mr Nader. He may be an irritating agitator for the corrupt and violent Palestinian regime but these are original. And one final note about his fury over Palestinian casualties: he needs to investigate, as he did so brilliantly in years past in his consumer advocacy role, the massive corruption in the Palestinian infrastructure and realise that without this the region would prosper and perhaps the wall might even come down.


MR. RUSSERT: But would you prefer, as an American citizen, to have Barack Obama or John McCain as president?

MR. NADER: You're asking me? I'm running for president, for heaven's sake.

..If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form. ..You think they're going to vote for a Republican like McCain, who allies himself with the criminal, recidivistic regime of George Bush and Dick Cheney, the most multipliable impeachable presidency in American history?…

1950, President Truman proposed universal health care. We still don't have it. We have the worst tax system, perverse incentives that rewards the speculators on Wall Street….. We need to shift the power from the few to the many. …Maybe the slogan should be "Power to the babies."

You may read the full tarsncript of 'Meet the Press; here: .

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