Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chuck Schumer and Israeli Exceptionalism

[An edited/extended version of my note to Adam Schiff]

Dear Mr. Schumer:

In your press release of 4 January 2017, you quote Senator Rubio as saying "Efforts to delegitimize Israel have been underway a long time at the United Nations and have now sadly been aided by the outgoing administration" in reference to UN SC Resolution 2334. In contrast, a press release from Senator Feinstein on 23 December 2016 states "President Obama’s refusal to veto today's UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements sends a strong message that the United States still supports a two-state solution. Ending settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is an absolute necessity if we’re ever to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians." As Rachel Maddow said of Senator Feinstein, she "will crush you and bench press your corpse," and I think it may be in your and Senator Rubio's best interests not to disagree with her. I'm just sayin'.

I expect that you personally feel that Israel's settlements are wrong, as is their treatment of people in Gaza, but you have strong elements among your constituents who will not tolerate any action that is not pro-Israel. To me, this issue is significant enough on the world stage that, if I were in your place, I would vote my conscience even if it meant being voted out of office.

The occupation of the land by Israel as a sovereign nation ended in A.D. 136 with the Bar Kokhba revolt. Nineteen centuries have passed since then. When Crusader influence in the Holy Land was finally eliminated in A.D. 1244 with the Battle of La Forbie, the land came under Muslim control and remained so until 1948. That was seven centuries of Palestine being Muslim land. In any other region of the world, a people forcibly taking land that had not been theirs for 19 centuries from a people in whose possession that land had been for the previous 7 centuries would be considered an illegal invasion, and other nations would become involved in ousting the invading nation. In any other region of the world.

It's understandable, after the insanity in Germany during the second quarter of the twentieth century, that everyone in 1948 felt it important for Jewish people to have a homeland. Had I been living then, I would have agreed. There needed to be significant accommodation after enduring horrors like that. But if one took stock of the situation in 1967, one would have seen that Jewish people were experiencing acceptance and finding prosperity in many places in the Western world, and one would wonder whether the need for a homeland at that point warranted the Six Day War. If the Six Day War had been treated then as a people forcibly taking land that had not been theirs for 19 centuries from a people in whose possession that land had been for the previous 7 centuries, it would have been in line with international law to oppose it. It would have been acceptable to everyone if other nations became involved in ousting the invading nation because the Jewish people had had two decades to heal emotionally by that time. Instead, the drive to oust Palestinians from what has to be defined as their land increased and the establishing of the illegal settlements began.

 Of course you know this history, much better than I do. How would you react to illegal US settlements on American Indian land? How did you react to Iraq invading Kuwait? I'll have to research more but isn't Russia's treatment of Ukraine in the same vein as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How do you react to Russia's role in that conflict? Do they have a legitimate claim to Ukrainian land, or is their aggression illegal in view of international law? It's baffling to me if you, and any of your Jewish constituents, condemn illegal aggression by the US, Iraq and Russia but condone it for Israel. I don't understand where that double-standard comes from and have to label it hypocrisy.

It's interesting that both you and Senator Feinstein have the same objective, peace between Israelis and Palestinians through a two-state solution. I'm sure that, as a doctor of jurisprudence, you can dissemble with aplomb, and I expect that you personally believe that no logical argument can be made defending the illegal Israeli settlements. Even I, from down here, can see that Senator Feinstein's approach to achieving peace has the moral high ground. The logic leading to the illegal settlements being an obstacle to peace is so bald-faced that one wonders how you, and the other progressives with you, can overlook that. A question from a naive outsider: Did Israel purchase the land for the settlements from the Palestinians, or were contracts simply awarded to construction companies by the Israeli government? I expect that, if the settlement properties had been purchased legitimately from their Muslim owners, the settlements would probably not be termed illegal. If the land wasn't purchased, however, but simply subsumed by Israel, how can that not be considered criminal? It's baffling to me to see how much argues against the legal validity of the settlements and how motivated you are to overlook that. What would motivate you to the point of urging the veto of Res. 2334 and cosponsoring a resolution condemning it?

I would hate to find out that the Israel lobby gives you nice things that are just this side of legal. I would hope your motivation is simply to stay in office where you can do the most good. It could be that your pro-Israel conditioning began in infancy and you actually can't think in any other terms. Whatever your motivation is, you know better than to overlook the illegal settlements as an obstacle to peace. Israel deserved its exceptional status between 1948 and 1967. It no longer does. 19 centuries since the end of Israel's sovereignty cannot be ignored. 7 centuries of Muslim possession of the land cannot be ignored. On the world stage, Israel is just another nation, to whom the limitations imposed by international law apply equally.

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