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Cowboys & Indians…

Maybe it started with Cowboys & Indians. In the children’s game I always found myself playing the Indian side and rooting for the underdog. In some respects, I guess I just never “grew up.”

Bill Fletcher Jr., of the Black, published an interesting article of his recent trip with a labor delegation to North Africa and Palestine.

Routine press contact...

It brought back some poignant memories of my own time in the Middle East and East Africa back in 1969-74.

As a photog-journalist, I was credentialed with both Yassir Arafat’s Al Fatah armed-struggle organization in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and the Jewish Agency in Israel-Palestine, 1969.

Later, I traveled with a number of other guerilla and state forces as a newspaper writer, and as a combat-stringer for NBC News, Beirut.

Fletcher entitled his article, “Well, it IS an occupation!” after a response to a critic of his political description of Israel’s “annexation-in-progress.”  As Fletcher points out, “This is a violent occupation, and no semantics will get around that simple fact.”

Fletcher crossed into the Occupied Territories from Jordan. I made that same crossing in September of ’69 (the first non-Palestinian to do so after the 1967 June War).

My journey began when, as Managing Editor of Detroit’s Wayne State University daily student newspaper, The South End, 1968-69, I wrote and published a front-page editorial supporting the call for “a democratic, secular state of Palestine-Israel.” In other words, precisely what we as Americans ideally enjoyed.  Well, we used to…

As life had found me raised in a Christian/Jewish family, with experiences in NYC, the Army, Civil Rights, and other movements (disproportionately led by those with Jewish experiences), I was not prepared psychologically and culturally to meeting overt racists in Israel.

Israeli Colonial Settlement...

But, like Fletcher, with my first steps in the Occupied Territories, I ran into that racist beast.  In my case, I was profoundly disturbed by bizarre casual brutality toward Palestinian women and children queuing in line for their return home from the Jordanian markets.

As I toured Israel over the next few weeks, it only got worse…a lot worse. Fletcher describes even more disturbing scenes some 40+ years later (today). The only thing that changed was that it had got a whole lot worse.

He describes the colonial-settlements in the Occupied Territories, in direct contravention to all international law, as permanent…creeping annexation.

The only conceivable possibility that these “settlements” will ever be withdrawn or turned over to the Palestinians is if there were a civil war among the Israelis themselves.

Ironically, the only way that will occur is when the ultra-right leadership of Israel can no longer scapegoat the Palestinians in order to redirect internal Israeli contradictions and settler aggression.  In other words: When peace breaks out.

As a guest of the Jewish Agency—the very organization that created the Jewish state–I quickly learned that central to their strategy of Eretz Yisrael (Greater Israel) is what they term, “making facts.”

For conservatives (as here in the US as well), once a fact is established it is beyond negotiation; further discussions are wholly predicated upon on what YOU have, not what they’ve “already established.”

My hosts (they provided me with a car, driver and interpreter) often pointed out my own history to me—our dispossession and mass murder of Native Americans and the enslavement of millions of Africans as justification I should understand, if not agree with.  They were entirely serious without a shred of irony.

Last Saturday night in Tel Aviv...

They dismiss all opposition as coming from either “self-hating Jews,” or anti-Semites. They never lose such arguments.

I disagreed. The vast majority of Jews are social assimilationists, like every other rational person on earth.  And most non-Jews are not anti-Semites.

In fact, despite that being a central history and belief of political Zionism since its creation in the 1890s–its casus belli–the belief itself is predicated on racist justification.

The greatest irony and insult is the use of the Holocaust as proof for superiority and separation based on the social Darwinism of universal human racism—the same racism once employed by the fascist enemy.

The reactive oppression and dispossession of another people is not the answer, however one may choose to characterize it.

A belief in genetic or religious superiority–by anyone, anywhere on the planet–is the same racist trash.  Do I really need to point this out?

Dr. Publico


Category: History, Israel, Palestine
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2 Responses
  1. […] own working visit to Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan back in ’69 as a journalist (and subsequently thru 1970 and ’71), […]

  2. […] of the people I wanted to meet when I was a journalist in Israel in ’69 was Uri Avnery. He refused to see me, or so I was told. I couldn’t blame him, after all, who was […]

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