Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm in Hot Water with Friends and Family over Jews

Be careful in making any statements that could be possibly construed as critical of Jews or Israeli's.

In solidarity with people who support equality for all people, I posted a bumper sticker message that shows up at the end of all my emails.
It simply says: "Boycott APARTHEID Israel" and gives the United Nations definition of Apartheid and invites people to ignore the bumper sticker if it offends them.

Since then, I have received hate phone calls, hate mail, had things thrown at me, received demands to remove the bumper sticker from my email, and take them off my email distribution...personal, political or business and dis-invited to functions by both friends and family. Some refuse to respond to me, refuse to look at me and have either their husbands or wives call me to express their displeasure.

I decided to think about it. I re-read my bumper sticker and thought about it some more.
Here is the response I sent to my friends and family (some former friends and family).

Dear Friend or Family member,
I was very surprised and distressed at learning you felt my email bumper sticker in support of boycotting Israel, in protest of some Israeli policies, was somehow directed toward you, personally. or against Jews or Israeli's, personally.

This is certainly not the case. I made no reference in that regard, in any way.

I was especially distressed at your response, since my every action with you has been as a friend. Whenever you have called and asked my assistance for whatever purpose, I have been there for you. Broken down car, doctors, house sitting, computer help, emergencies, messes or whatever. I’m surprised, that given this history, you would not have called to talk about your concern.

While our some of our politics and our religious beliefs differ greatly, it has never been an issue in our friendship. I am at a loss as to understand why this has changed now. I can only assume it is a misunderstanding, since I have no other information to go on.

I take my activism on the subject of Middle East peace very seriously. I have no loyalty to any religious or ethnic group. My loyalty is to the right of all people to be respected in their culture, religion and country. As this right is regularly violated, I exercise my right to be critical of any action or policy of any party that threatens the right of peaceful existence for any party.

Putting an email bumper sticker at the bottom of all my emails, which gives the United Nations definition of Apartheid, is part of my effort to shine a light on policies that have not produced positive results for either party, in the hope that people of good faith will work for a change we can all believe in. This is part of who I am. This is part of what helps me feel I am doing something worthwhile in my life.

When one makes threats and takes actions against someone, it actually makes the threatening party less safe. When one opposes a policy that threatens one party, that opposition is automatically in solidarity with the threatening party…but not the actions. Israel’s Apartheid policy is a threat to Palestinian people, thus I oppose it. The policy incites a similar response toward Israeli people, thus I oppose it.

Had I been alive in Gandhi’s time, I would have opposed the Apartheid practiced by the British upon India. Had I been alive during the Indian Wars here is the USA, I would have opposed the unjust laws and practices. I was alive during the civil rights struggle in American and opposed USA policies that disadvantaged minorities. I was alive during South Africa Apartheid and actively boycotted their policies. Had I been alive when women in the USA were fighting for voting rights, I would have marched with them. I was alive for the ERA Amendment fight and did take an active part. As I have Gay friends who are subject to injustice, I stand with them. Had I been alive at the time the Jews were reputed to have been slaves in ancient Egypt, I would have been opposed to that oppression…and according to bible stories, the Jews were aided in their quest for freedom, by some of the local people, officials, friends, etc…who were not Jews. Had I been a German, I would have helped my Jewish friends. Opposition to what one sees as unjust policies was seen by our founding fathers as not just a right, but a duty.

Some of you, who are critical of me, are Mormons. That I disagree with Mormons on Prop 8 is irrelevant to your right to practice as you wish, yet some of you do not afford me the same respect.

To be against equality for Palestinians is also to be against the equality of Women, Native Americans, native people of India, Black Americans, Jews…and many other un-named groups.
The policies of the above listed governments and institutions actually did and do damage to the people of the countries and institutions, not just to the people they oppress. Thus, while in opposing bad policy, you can still support the people.

At no time have I ever failed to see the distinction between a government and the governed. Hating a policy enacted by a government has never caused me to hate the race or nationality of the people imposing the policy…or to wish for their genocide. Yet, some of you appear not to accept that distinction.

Unfortunately, with the aid of a media which prostitutes itself for ratings, instead of honest reporting, too many people are victims of polarized conditioning. Because of this, some people assume reacting is the same thing as thinking. This creates a chaotic environment where it is difficult for open minded people to create an orderly process for discovering the truths and the solutions. Too many people mistake the TV commercial or the governments PR department product, for reality…they mistake the TV commercial and PR product as information on which to base their ideologies, actions….and most often: reactions. People who control other people don’t want the people to have all the information and sure don’t want them to learn how to reason. So, they wave the red cape, they wave primitive and instilled fears. They wave disinformation. They incite hate.

My priority is not the truth. My interest is in the integrity of the process. If the process is honest, I will accept whatever truth is discovered…whether it comports with my conditioning, religious beliefs, prejudices, or ideologies.

As you know, I am a member of many groups working for the common good of all peoples in the Middle East. Perhaps, as I am, you also are a member of J Street. A group made up predominantly of Jews, but which also welcomes other thoughtful people. This group accepts Arabs and Muslims as well. As you know, I am also a member of International Solidarity Movement. There are many Jews and Israeli’s in this group also. These people know enough about the policy of Apartheid and the effects it has on both parties, to know it must be opposed…for the good of mankind.

Unfortunately, some people feel Jews, Israeli’s, Arab’s and Muslim’s are monolithic. People who believe this way are easily manipulated by the corporate media, corporate government and special interest groups. These are the same manipulators that try to define Republicans and Democrats as monolithic, so they can keep them polarized and at each other’s throats, so they are unable to see that they have more in common with each other than in opposition.

The manipulators scream the word “anti-Semitism” when anyone criticizes any Israeli or Jewish policy…as if Jews and Israeli’s are the only groups of people on the planet immune from making mistakes. What these people also fail to recognize, is that Arab’s are Semites, too. So using that logic (or more accurately, lack of logic) any criticism of Arab’s or Muslims could be called “anti-Semite” as well. People like this are obviously not ready to be part of any constructive solution. They try to discourage people who desire to find a fair life for both parties. They assail their politics, their activism, they deface their religious places, they try to demonize and silence any and all who think differently. They try to intimidate people from using their right to free speech and action. They burn books. Sounds strikingly like Nazi tactic’s, doesn’t it?

I’m a trivia buff. I’m also a statistics guy. I like numbers…they can tell an interesting story in a few words. It is interesting that out of the 13 million Jews in the world, 6 million live in the USA, 5 million live in Israel. It was also interesting to learn that only 65% of Jews believe in God (to me, that say’s 35% of Jews are smarter than Americans since 91% of Americans believe in God). There are also 500,000 citizens of Israel, who are neither, Arab, Jew or Muslim. Not all Israeli’s are Jews. Not all Arabs are Muslims. Israel also has 1.1 million Israeli citizens…which are Arab. There are also 2.5 million Palestinians who do not have citizenship.

I list this trivia to make the point with facts, that the people of Israel/Palestine are not just one monolithic citizenry. They are as varied in their lives as we are in ours. Unfortunately, 2.5 million Arab people in Israel/Palestine, are not allowed to vote.

If you are interested in learning more about the nature of Apartheid, there is a very good discussion here: http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/summer/articles02.htm In easy to read charts and numbers, one can see some harsh realities that even the most hardened heart cannot justify.

Hopefully, you will find this letter helpful. I hope you will carefully consider it and agree that what you may have at first thought to be offensive was really only a misunderstanding…and in fact, is as supportive as one can be. That it really is supportive of people…all people, but not all people’s policies and actions or reactions. Hopefully, you will reflect on our friendship and find that the strength of it is in not only being there for each other when needed but in our diversity as well as our commonality.

Your friendship is very important to me.


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