OCALA, Fla., November 12, 2013 — Amid the religious militancy, economic despair, and social strife now associated with the Middle East, facts tend to go unmentioned.
All too often, people rely on personal biases and stereotypes when it comes to foreign policy. This is especially perilous as an open mind is never more necessary than when Mideast matters arise.
One journalist who has bucked the trend of assuming popular narratives to be true is Max Blumenthal. In the past, he has written extensively about the religious right’s takeover of Republican politics. For this, he was rewarded handsomely by media figures.
Over the last few years, though, Blumenthal chose a different course. He decided to take a leave in Israel, and what he saw was chronicled in his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.
Simply from reading its title, one ought not be surprised that Goliath became a lightning rod in short order. One also might have predicted that many in the press cooled toward its author.
The book has attracted criticism from the left and the right. When its detractors focus on details, these are usually of a small, if not clerical, nature. The overarching facts are generally avoided. Apparently, the main beef of Goliath’s nemeses is that Blumenthal wrote about Israel’s problems at all.
One of these problems is the condition under which Palestinians live. They have a far inferior quality of life compared to their Israeli neighbors. Some believe that Israel is to blame for this, while others claim the exact opposite.
“A recent World Bank report notes that the occupation of the West Bank has cost the Palestinian Authority $3.4 billion a year and has reduced its Gross Domestic Product by one third,” Blumenthal tells The Washington Times Communities.
“The economic drain on the West Bank is achieved through Israel’s full control over Area C, which comprises 60% of the West Bank and where the Israeli government has planted over 200 settlements.
“In the Gaza Strip, which suffers under a longstanding Israeli-Egyptian siege, the situation is far worse. According to Israeli planning documents revealed by the human rights group Gisha, Israeli administrators have employed complex mathematical formulas to limit residents of Gaza to 2279 calories a day.
“The Israeli lawyer and negotiator Dov Weissglass has said the goal of the siege was to ‘put the Palestinians on a diet but not make them die of hunger. As a result, 10 percent of Palestinian children under five have had their growth stunted by malnutrition, food insecurity is widespread, especially among children, and two-thirds of infants suffer from anemia. A September 2012 UN predicted that by 2020 the Gaza Strip will be ‘uninhabitable.’”
Beyond Palestine, Israel has major problems with its Arab population.
“An extensive survey released late in June shows that Arab citizens of Israel are increasingly alienated and view their status as clearly being second class,” writes political columnist Allan C. Brownfeld in this season’s Issues, a publication of the non-Zionist American Council for Judaism.
“The survey, 2012 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel, was conducted by Professor Sammy Smooha of Haifa University. In Smooha’s view, eliminating discrimination is essential, but he fears that the process will be slow.
“The nature of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, he points out, makes it more complicated. He cites the Law of Return as an example. The law pertains to Jews and eliminates even Palestinian spouses of Arab Israelis, for fear the children may be raised unloyal to the state. But, said Smooha, Arab Israelis remain very loyal: ‘They are resigned with Israel as a Jewish state … They don’t want to shatter the rules, they just want more equality and dignity.’”
For those of us in the United States, Israel is usually though of as a faraway land where the culture and lifestyle are none too different from our own. The only difference is that it has a majority Jewish public, while America is mostly Christian. In the grand scheme of things, something like this is negligible — a nation of just laws and good will is what really matters.
Unfortunately, Israel is succumbing to the terrors of ethnic nationalism, which foreruns a supremacist state. Ironically, Israel was formed precisely because European ethnic supremacists treated a religious community as if it were a race. What happened next is known to all but Holocaust deniers.
During the months and years ahead, one can hope that more will be heard about facts on the ground in Israel. After enough people are in the know, a peaceful future rooted in secular jurisprudence might be built for the Holy Land.
Really now, who could ask for more?
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