it's going to take massive reinforcements before the Jewish peace types who stood vigil outside the Israeli consulate last Friday can make even a dent in the dangerous consensus fomented by this city's Jewish establishment.For almost two years now, since the Oslo peace plan derailed, B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have policed the political terrain in the community, punishing government officials when they dare stray into human rights concerns and monitoring the airwaves and print media to make sure no charge goes unanswered and no doubt unsnuffed.
Once, they were service organizations mandated to protect the Jewish community and reinforce civil rights for minorities. Right now they have unwittingly become propaganda machines for an Israeli state department anxious to lower our moral quotient so we no longer react to assassinations, mass detentions, strafing of communities, house demolitions, the shooting of civilians.
By providing cover for Operation Defensive Shield, these organizations have compromised their local human rights accomplishments and tainted the name of Jewish compassion. How is the public to understand their urgent press releases on synagogue arson or the trashing of Hindu temples when they show so little interest in Palestinians dying in the streets because Israel's army has blocked ambulances?
The crackdown is designed to "root out terrorists," they tell us, hoping we will forget the laws of cause and effect, and how jubilant Palestinians ran into the streets after Oslo dreaming of new and ordinary lives in their own homeland. And how back then there were so few attacks on Israelis. And how, soon after, Israeli settlements expanded until that homeland was more and more criss-crossed by checkpoints and private roads so it could no longer be spoken of as a contiguous swath of Arab land under the red-green-and-white flag.
The collective amnesia Israel's military symps want for us will never descend on the children of Ramallah, Nablus and Bethelehem who run from tanks and helicopters and watch their daddies die. They will never forget.
Sometimes boosters of the invasion taunt dissenters: Why don't you talk about suicide bombers? Why are you always talking about our rights violations? What about theirs? they ask. As if monitors of war crimes distinguish between which child on which side gets blown to bits, which mother behind which line never comes home. As if we didn't know that every morning Israelis kiss their loved ones goodbye with fear firing the belly. As if we haven't got relatives there ourselves on tranquilizers and sleeping pills.
B'nai Brith and the Congress like to say that the difference between "us" and "them" is that they target civilians and we don't. But the syntax itself lies: when the heart no longer pumps blood to the veins, it is called death, and it doesn't matter a whit what the perpetrator had in mind. The Israeli army may not actually target civilians, but they do something just as coldblooded -- they don't give a damn. Palestinian civilians strafed by machine guns, blown up by explosives, bombed from planes -- all incidental, accidental and ephemeral, we are expected to believe.
Collective punishment is what colonizers employ when they have cartoonized their subject people. When they draw the enemy as all the same, interchangeable. When they can't make the fine distinctions and separate out the thoughtful -- Ghassan Khatib, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Dr. Eyad El Serraj and so many more -- from the lethal.
But Palestinian psychiatrists and democrats will have to deal with the authoritarian legacy of suicide bombing. I wouldn't dignify the strapping of explosives on young, romantic bodies by saying it's "the only tool the Palestinians have left to them." This is an untruth. The campaign for Palestinian statehood, besides having a moral elegance, has international law on its side, massive support in Europe and Muslim countries, the attention of civil libertarians worldwide -- and a fervent following in Israel itself.
It would be easier to consolidate this external sympathy if the murderous fanatics who send young people to their explosive end were marginalized and mocked for daring to rob the new Palestine of its brightest and bravest.
But alas, Palestinian resistors aren't seeking tactical and strategical advice from peaceniks in North America. It's illuminating that recent polls show 30 per cent of those in the Occupied Territories don't trust any party or religious group, though Hamas and Islamic Jihad manage 26 per cent.
Meanwhile, watch for an imminent display of flagrant Jewish diversity. The American Jewish spiritualists of Tikkun magazine are calling for civil disobedience in Washington, "acts of prophetic witness," they are calling it, saying, "Israel is leading the Jewish people toward a full-scale abandonment of God's message of love, justice, peace and the Unity of All Being." Tikkun Canada is circulating an emergency petition supporting Canada's call for an Israeli withdrawal. Retired University of Waterloo geography professor Len Gertler is seeking names on a statement calling for Israelis to replace Sharon with a leader who will protect Israel "in a way that affirms the humanist and humanitarian values of the majority of Jews around the world." The black-clad Jewish Women Against the Occupation hold the ground at the consulate.
A thousand flowers will bloom in this garden of deconstruction. Let us plant them quickly, so when the horror is over and Palestinians have their own state and the compensation owing to them, we can remember who it is we are.