How the Saudis stole a march on the U.S.
Palestinian Authority advisers Saeb Erakat and Yasser Abed Rabbo arrived in Washington at the beginning of February confused and uncertain. Their mandate from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, was to talk to State Department officials about US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s upcoming visit to Ramallah, where she was planning to hold a three-way meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian president about restarting the peace process.
But beyond that, neither Erakat nor Abed Rabbo had a clue about why Abu Mazen had insisted they travel to Washington. They weren’t alone. In the immediate wake of their visit, State Department officials wondered aloud why the two had even bothered to come: “The real question for both men was the same,” an official familiar with the Erakat-Abed Rabbo meetings remarked, “and that was - what the hell are you doing here?”
The same confusion was apparent at the White House, where National Security Council (NSC) official Elliott Abrams - the architect of US policy in the Middle East - was growing increasingly irritated with Rice’s attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks. Abrams, supported by officials in the Office of the Vice President, had consistently argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a morass better left in the hands of the Israelis. That viewpoint was clear from the first days of the administration of President George W Bush, when Vice President Dick Cheney knocked down any attempt to re-engage with Israelis and Palestinians.
A Republican Party stalwart describes Cheney’s views in blunt terms: “People would come to Bush and say we have to get focused on the peace process, and Cheney would sit there and say, ‘Mr President, don’t do it. These people have been fighting for 50 years. To hell with them. And look at what happened to [former president Bill] Clinton when he tried. It just got worse.’ And Bush would nod his head and that would be the end of the discussion.”
How to Live With Hunger
When I was a child, a popular argument in favor of the Israeli "liberation," i.e., occupation, of the Palestinian territories was its being a blessing for the Palestinians themselves. "When we took it over," I was told at school, "there were just a couple of cars in the entire West Bank. And look how many they have now!" Indeed, in the first decades of the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian standard of living was on the rise – not because of Israeli investments (Israel never invested a cent in Palestinian welfare or infrastructure), but mainly because Israel exploited the Palestinians as a cheap labor force, and even a cheap labor force gets paid.
The welfare argument cannot be heard anymore, now that one in two Gaza and West Bank households is "food insecure" or in danger of becoming so, as a UN report recently revealed. Not that it changed anything for the Israeli expansionists: once that colonialist argument became obsolete, the supporters of the occupation switched to other excuses. That's the nice thing about the politics of the occupation: the support for it is based on excuses, not reasons. Whenever one excuse fails, Israel's propaganda machine offers another.
It's interesting to observe, however, how Israelis nowadays cope with what used to be such a popular excuse. Having claimed the occupation ameliorated Palestinian life, Israelis now have to face hunger and starvation at their doorstep. How do they live with it?
From Esther to AIPAC
Jewishness is a rather broad term. It refers to a culture with many faces, varied distinctive groups, different beliefs, opposing political camps, different classes and diversified ethnicity. Nevertheless, the connection between those very many people who happen to identify themselves as Jews is rather intriguing. In the paragraphs that follow, I will try to further the search into the notion of Jewishness. I will make an attempt to trace the intellectual, spiritual and mythological collective bond that makes Jewishness into a powerful identity.
Clearly, Jewishness is neither a racial nor an ethnic category. Though Jewish identity is racially and ethnically orientated, the Jewish people do not form a homogenous group. There is no racial or ethnic continuum. Jewishness may be seen by some as a continuation of Judaism. I would maintain that this is not necessarily the case either. Though Jewishness borrows some fundamental Judaic elements, Jewishness is not Judaism and it is even categorically different from Judaism. Furthermore, as we know, more than a few of those who proudly define themselves as Jews have very little knowledge of Judaism, many of them are atheists, non-religious and even overtly oppose Judaism or any other religion. Many of those Jews who happen to oppose Judaism happen to maintain their Jewish identity and to be extremely proud about it. This opposition to Judaism obviously includes Zionism (at least the early version) but it also is the basis of much of Jewish socialist anti-Zionism.
Though Jewishness is different from Judaism one may still wonder just what constitutes Jewishness: whether it is a new form of religion an ideology or if it is just a 'state of mind'.
Growing Up Jewdy
Each day, I read stories about Jewish cults and customs, corrupt Jewish leaders and the heinous activities of the Zionist elite. Each day I read about the brutality in the Middle East, the plight of the Palestinians, and the culpable Jewish leaders in America. And each day, as I think back on my personal history, my coming of age in an average American Jewish family, I wonder, "where do I fit in?"
I am prompted to write this essay because stories like mine rarely get told. It is the story of an ordinary Jewish family, my family.