Most of the bodegas in my neighborhood are run by Palestinians and I’m friendly with a few of them. The guy I get along with best is a former journalist who grew up as a refugee in Jordan after his parents fled their home in what is now northern Israel (ironically, he never met a Jew until he came to this country). We talk about politics and he has a difficult time understanding the kneejerk support this country gives Israel.
I had trouble understanding it myself until I thought about the level of pro-Israeli propaganda I was subjected to as a child growing up during the Cold War. In cartoons and television shows all I saw was how great Israel was for ’making the desert bloom’ and how noble its struggle was against the sneak attacks of the treacherous Arabs. The most remarkable memory I have is of being shown a film version of the history of Israel in my school auditorium in the seventh grade, along with the rest of the student body. It was pure hagiography and I wonder even now about the kind of political indoctrination that was allowed in that era (another time we were shown a film about the glorious victories of the Chinese Revolution! This was after Nixon’s visit and another aspect of the Cold War legacy. Or maybe someone on the school board was a Maoist).
I didn’t question this favoritism until I was in high school, when I began to doubt all the propaganda that had been pumped into my brain over the years.
While I grew up in a fairly Jewish neighborhood, I believe my experiences weren’t too unusual.
U.S. support for Israel may have made strategic sense thirty years ago, but now it is the greatest obstacle for any chance of negotiating peace in the MIddle East. All that comes of it is atrocity and death.
In the news coverage of the latest misery in the Middle East, the myth about the 2000 Camp David Summit is never far away. As generally reported in the U.S., it was the greatest opportunity for peace in the conflict to date, one carelessly tossed away by Arafat. Any even cursory examination of the facts shows this wasn’t the case, but it doesn’t stop the myth being repeated endlessly. It’s fascinating how rhetoric can so quickly obscure truth, even in generally responsible media outlets. All one has to do is stay on message and keep repeating the myth.
Here’s a brief recounting of the facts.
Zidaine used this defense to justify his head butt in the World Cup Final. Oddly enough, I used it once myself in the 7th grade. I was sitting in gym class when Gary Bloch and I got into an argument. Now Gary was a loudmouth who was always trying to act ghetto – even though his dad was an architect – but we got along fine most of the time. During this particular argument, he made the mistake of saying something crude about my mother. I immediately jumped up and started punching him in the face. He never had a chance to fight back, or even stand. I wasn’t angry at all when I hit him, I just knew I could get away with it. He also had a strange, bandage-covered growth on his face that day which made him repellent and therefore even more worthy of being punched.
In the principal’s office I was asked to explain my behavior.
Well, I said, He said something about my mother.
Gary, the principal said, Is that true?
Gary admitted that it was.
You know, the principal said, You shouldn’t talk about peoples’ mothers.
The end result was that I had to apologize to Gary and Gary had to apologize to me. Then we were sent back to class.
Of course, unlike Zidaine, I was twelve at the time.