Saturday, March 15, 2003

I got an email from a woman in Britain, British most of her life but Arab by birth, asking me among other things about my opinions on the Israeli conflict. I've written on it often enough, but my response surprised her. She says she's never heard anyone say something similar outside of the region:

"Zionism is Racism. Considering the current situation, and including the fact that I'm a left-wing secularist, Hamas and Hezbollah are impressive. As far as I can tell the bombings are not acts of nihilism, are not fascist like Al Qaeda, but are seen as part of a concrete military strategy. [similar to Giap's in Vietnam?] The leadership seems to be in control and to be able—and willing (which is important)—to stop the bombings when they think it's appropriate. It's a terrible, painful, strategy, but it is a strategy nonetheless, and it is working. Israel is slowly falling apart.
I really don't think at this point there is such a thing as an Israeli 'civilian.'
I oppose the bombings, but at the same time, I don't know what else could replace them."

There are plenty of people who would agree with this, including many Jews.

It's important to understand the dynamic here: Jews—and Arabs—are the only people for whom I have an implicit trust on the issue of the Middle East. Anti-Semitism, in the bastard sense of anti-Jewish sentiment, is real in this country and Europe, and all minorities are defensive—and need to be—in the face of a history of bias.

Black anger toward Jews in this country I understand and 'as-a-rule' put aside without disrespect. A black man, or woman, and I can talk about the need for self-protection and understand one another. I've never attacked Farrakhan. I've argued against him but not as it were, behind his back, and not until my interlocutors have looked into my eyes and given their permission. That is the courtesy a member of one minority pays to another. But to a black man I'm white, just as I'm still black to many other—white—Americans. So when a white man says the that Jews have too much power in this country I watch his eyes as well.

It's empiricism and not rationalism that's needed in these cases, and it's something else that programmatic liberals, and conservatives, who have never been on the street, don't understand.

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