Thursday, August 17, 2006


Those who are willing to sacrifice everything for a cause are rampant in the world today. When we think of the phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death,” we are moved by its simplicity and by its power. We value these words in the sweep of history because they were uttered by one of “us”, not one of “them”, and during a time when such words could both inspire and be treasonous. In some long ago past, others have said words like these with the same effects. People have been rallied to fight. “Don’t think small,” these words announce.

In the past century, we can readily imagine citizens and soldiers having said these words. We can hear them in India’s liberation from British rule, and in Israel’s early struggles for statehood. We can hear them in Mao’s Long March, and in Mandela’s South Africa. We can hear them today in Palestinian voices. What is common is that these people raised their voices in defense of what was, and is, theirs. It was not Stalin who spoke for Mao. No, these voices come from people who have a vested interest in a place or in a political consciousness necessary for that place.

In the 21st century, there are still some people who inspire, but most of the heavy lifting comes from institutions. AIPAC is a one issue lobbying operation in the U.S. that does everything it can to get America to support Israel, and there are equivalent lobbists for Palestine all over the Middle East. At $75.00 per barrel, and with a daily production level of, say, 5 million barrels, the revenue to the Saudis is $375 million per day. And that’s just Saudi Arabia. Iran’s production is about half of that, or around $200 million per day, or a cool $1.4 billion a week. When you talk per year rather than per day, the number would make even Bill Gates take notice. Is it unfair that AIPAC should direct its influence at Congress and exercise the sort of real power they do? I think so, but I don’t think they are more powerful or better funded than those who are carrying out the same work overseas with Saudi Arabia or Iran.

And if you don’t like things the way they are, you have only to blame the mainline Protestants like the Episcopals, the Presbyterians, and the Methodists, to name a few. It was they who founded this country, they who ruled it during its formative years, they who established its institutions and laws, and they who controlled, until fairly recently, virtually all of its economic life. If Big Steel, Big Drugs, and Big Labor can lobby Congress around very narrow issues, why not Big Jew. Jews who grew up in this country, except for, perhaps, a handful of Bal Shem Tov followers, learned the same lessons of citizenship that their brother Catholics and Protestants did. But for a long time, they and their brother Catholics were kept out of the capital mainstream and out of federal decision making. Slowly, Catholics were allowed in, and then Jews.

They learned the American Capital Game—you know, the one we’re trying to teach the world—very well, and are making the most of it. The Catholics have had one President for their trouble, but the Jews aren’t there yet, despite having some Senators, Representatives, and some Cabinet-level appointees. People who don’t like the way AIPAC is playing the game should be equally critical of Big Oil. After all, aren’t some of those "watch out for the Jewish Lobby" people the same ones who say we went to war in Iraq over oil? You’re quick to say that the Jews have too much power when a Hizbollah building is bombed and innocents are left dead in their wake, but I missed the day when you protested the killing of Iraqi women and children by trading in your Hummers for bikes.

If you think I think U.S. policy in the Middle East is “fair”, I’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t. Israel gets the nod fifty times for every time Palestine does. That’s not fair. I’ve also heard that it’s not fair that 1 billion Muslims are working hard to defeat a handful of Israelis, by comparison. And here’s a real difference. Israelis are in two broad camps. The first says they want peace, and will vote that way every time. That’s about half. Then there’s the side that says they will certainly accept peace, but that there is no way the Arabs will allow it, so what’s the use of talking about it. In other words, virtually every Israeli wants peace, but half say the Arabs can’t live with that. With respect to the Arabs, I’m quite willing to believe that there’s that same 50% who want peace and will work toward it at whatever cost. Then there are pragmatists who say that the Israelis will not negotiate fairly so why should they be eager to sit down and talk. These Arab reactions reflect the two camps in Israel. What there is not in Israel is the third camp, albeit relatively small, that seeks out the total destruction of Israel. The Hizbollah, Iran’s toy, and Hamas, plus the Al-Qaeda and similar groups have that as a common aim, even if it isn’t their first aim. When’s the last time you heard any Israeli group say they wanted the complete destruction of the Palestinian people. Despite what the Palestinians believe or feel, they obviously still exist, as do the Israelis. And these two groups are the ones with a real stake in peace. The others have a stake in keeping the issue hot and destablized.

So don’t come around expecting me to take issue with AIPAC if you don’t want to talk about EXXON, or about Israel frustrating attempts at a Middle East peace if you don’t want me to talk about Hamas and Hizbollah. And, if you are a die hard supporter of marijuana legalization, don't think you're not following the same capitalist model of AIPAC, the Oil Lobby, or even the AIDS Lobby. It's a process question, not an "ends" question. The ends question is the lie you believe that lets you support one thing and condemn another. Just because you have your head up your ass doesn’t mean I have to do the same. For my money, all of them can go straight to hell, and probably will. That's an ends question not a process question.


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