Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is Netroots Nation taking on the Israel-Palestine question? Er, maybe...

One of the most untouchable issues in America today is the Israel-Palestine situation. Whenever I blog about this subject, I seem to lose friends -- not to mention getting irate e-mails and death threats. No other issue in politics today seems to have such a third rail. But now things seem to actually finally be changing.

For instance, this is the first year that Netroots Nation has actually agreed to host an Israel-Palestine caucus, which I attended -- being very interested to see who would show up and also what their positions would be. Would we have right-wing rabbis screaming at us about Hamas rocket attacks? Would we have sad-eyed Palestinians in black and white checkered scarves mourning a homeland that they could never return to? Would there be confrontations or what?

But what we actually got were about ten participants, mostly from J Street. And we actually had a very nice talk. No one even yelled at anyone, not even me. But there were a hecka lot of issues to bring up and discuss. Too bad we only had the room booked for one hour.

"How can we make this issue less of a third rail so we can discuss it rationally and maybe even find some solutions?" was our first question. Good luck with that one.

"We need to talk about how Israel's behavior is effecting our own national security," was the next question. Okay. Let's talk. "Israel and some of the policy-makers there are actually starting to change their position on Hamas." But in which way?

"Israel is America's foothold in the Middle East," said an Israeli at the caucus. Ah. There's the crux. You can't exactly expect the Israeli power structure to behave itself when the American power structure does not. Torture? Land grabs? Illegal attacks? Even illegally dumping nuclear waste. Could Israel simply be copying the US's bad behavior? Er, yeah.

"The right wing in America does something very well -- they raise the cost of bringing this subject up, raise it to the point where the cost of discussing it becomes too high and the subject is then dropped. They change it into an emotional issue." But the Right is now finding this harder and harder to do. "For instance, J Street has now become suddenly cool. We now get about a bizillion new resumes. We have tried to move this issue away from emotionalism. For instance, when you bring up cap and trade, no one calls you anti-Semitic. We want to see it that same way regarding policies about Israel."

A rep from Media Matters was also at the caucus. "We are going to start delving into this area more -- so things really ARE changing." You mean that this area is finally becoming less of a third rail and that we can finally start discussing this issue intelligently? Yeah right.

"And what about the fallout from the flotilla?" I asked. "And what about dual American-Israel citizenship? Can we discuss that too?"

But just as I'm typing up the replies to my questions, Brad Friedman and John Fund walk into the media room and start arguing about Fund's speech against ACORN on Fox News. Fund was upset by Friedman's aggressiveness. But I'm upset because I'm trying to concentrate and write this I-P caucus stuff up before I forget it.

But no one seemed to want to discuss Israel's brutal treatment of the humanitarian aid flotilla where nine people were killed in cold blood and many more were beaten and tortured. And what about dual citizenship? If the spit hits the fan, will these American side with America's interests or with Israel's? No one wanted to touch that question either.

"The Right offers the illusion of facts," said another caucus participant. Not facts themselves -- but the illusion of facts." Then someone else added, "The urgency issue here is also being ignored."

And I'm still trying to ignore Friedman and Fund, who are now yelling at each other again. "Do you think it was right to secretly videotape the ACORN interview?" Friedman is asking. Do I think it is right for Israeli commandos to secretly videotape their illegal attack on the humanitarian flotilla to Gaza!

Back to the caucus.

"The Israel-Palestine conflict is now under slow burn, even despite the flotilla media coverage. It's like the environmental issue -- where if we wait until it's too late then it WILL be too late." Yes, an Israeli attack on Iran could start World War III. That would definitely heat things up.

"There's a polemic of fear in Israel regarding Iran. Plus U.S. behavior since 9-11 has created the feeling that regarding the 'War on Terror,' anything goes. And Israeli policy-makers have followed that cue. So it's now like a piano falling from the sky -- the way that anti-Israel sentiments are building up in America. But if we don't continue this debate, then the child will continue to be spoiled." Yes. And America needs to be stopped from acting like a spoiled child too.

Then Friedman stalked out and Fund went on blogging. And I went back to writing up my notes.

"The Israeli government always justifies their actions by bringing up Gilad Shalit. But even Shalit's family is starting to feel that he is being used by the Israeli hard-liners."

"We need to change the frame of the debate," was the general consensus. Sure, but to what? To what is best for America, perhaps? And to what is best for Israel and Palestine too -- because someone around here has to represent justice and democracy and not just to be out there grabbing up land and selling useless piles of weapons and trying to get a jump on the next decade's resource wars. Oops. Too late. We are already engaged in the next decade's resource wars now.

Then our caucus decided to ask Nancy Pelosi a question when she speaks at NN on Saturday -- and the question that most of us finally agreed upon was this: "Do you support President Obama's view that a two-state solution is in the U.S. national interest and that U.S. leadership is essential to achieving that goal?"

Me? I just wanted to ask her what she thought of Bibi Netanyahu
's statement that he could make the U.S. do whatever he wanted it to do -- but that suggestion was shelved.

And then the caucus ended. Whew! And now that we've managed to solve all the problems of the Middle East, and Friedman and Fund are friends again (sort of), I gotta go run off to hear the next speakers.