Jews in this country face a moral crisis today, now. Inside Israel, there are open calls for ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and Gaza, for mass expulsion of Palestinian communities that have lived on the land for generations. Of course, it is not called ethnic cleansing. It is called 'transfer.'
In the past three weeks, we have seen a terrifying escalation of the violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Dozens of innocent Palestinians are killed each week in military assaults on a scale not seen in two decades. Innocent Israelis are cut down by Palestinian bombers striking back.
Ariel Sharon, who 20 years ago directed a murderous war that left more than 17,000 dead in Southern Lebanon, is now directing the brutal efficiency of the Israeli Defense Forces against the civilian population of the West Bank and Gaza.
Sharon, who was found guilty by an Israeli commission of inquiry for his part in the massacre of 1,700 women and children in the refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila, is now prosecuting his personal vendetta against refugee camps outside of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Today we watch in stunned silence as the children and grandchildren of the victims of Nazi terror carry out programs of unimaginable brutality upon the innocent and besieged communities of the occupied territories. We watch as soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces write numbers on the arms of Palestinian detainees, evoking the memories of Jews who were similarly marked by their German captors. (After outcry within Israel, this practice was stopped by the IDF.)
If we look closer, we also will see the children and grandchildren of the victims of Nazi terror fighting against the dispossession and repression of the Palestinian people.
Hundreds of Israeli reservists have signed a petition refusing to serve in the occupied territories. Many hundreds more already have refused to serve and been quietly reassigned. Many thousands more have signed petitions supporting the refuseniks.
These reservists have not refused because they feared for their lives. They have refused because they have seen the crimes the IDF commits daily against Palestinians, and they will not take part. They deserve our support.
Thousands of Israelis have marched in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for an end to the occupation. They deserve our support.
Our country can end this tragic conflict. Yet it serves the foreign policy interests of past and present U.S. administrations to have a militarized and dependent client state in the Middle East. That state is Israel.
Not all of Israel's supporters give a damn about the Jews. This was recently revealed in the shocking transcripts of conversations between Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. Nixon was a staunch supporter of Israel Ñ and a vicious anti-Semite.
'The best Jews are actually the Israeli Jews,' Nixon is quoted as saying in the conversation with Graham. Transcripts released in 1999, and cited in The Washington Post, have Nixon complaining that 'most Jews are disloyal' and that, 'generally speaking, you can't trust the bastards. They turn on you.'
Support for the kind of Israel that Nixon had in mind is not support for the citizens of Israel, nor for the Jewish people. It is support based on strategic interests that have nothing to do with the survival of Palestinians or Jews.
Current U.S. Middle East policy neither is motivated by concern for Jews, nor protects Jews. Israel is a strategic asset, but the Israelis themselves are expendable. The extremist policies of the Sharon government, backed by U.S. weapons and diplomatic cover, has led to greater insecurity for Jews and Palestinians alike.
In Chicago, we are called Not in My Name. In San Francisco, A Jewish Voice for Peace. In Portland we are Jews for Global Justice. We will not be silent in the face of the crimes committed in our name.
True security for Israel can only come through peace, and peace only through justice. We call for an immediate cutoff of U.S. support for Israel until there is an end to her illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
William Seaman is a human-rights activist and a member of Jews for Global Justice, 503-299-4772. He lives in Southeast Portland.