Apr 24, 2009

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black

This is the day that a black Mercedes Benz driving forty five in a twenty-five mile zone almost cuts me off. Two Armenian flags fly from the rear windows and another Armenian flag is displayed on the top, clipped into the sun-roof sliding glass. The crazy driver is a young man with a booming stereo at full blast, a cigarette in his mouth. Today is a big day in my town because it is the commemoration of the Armenian genocide--1914-1918, the first holocaust of the 20th century. The orders that Hitler gave before the invasion of Poland ended with the question, "Who. after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

And though many decades have passed since US Ambassador Morgenthau first reported to the Wilson government that genocide was taking place, and headlines in the New York Times recorded the massacres and forced migrations, the United States still has not officially recognized the Armenian genocide, acting according to Realpolitikischen principles in not wanting to upset the Turkish government, our allies and fellow NATO member. Candidate Obama clearly indicated that he was in favor of recognizing the Armenian genocide. President Obama made a speech in Turkey in which he mentioned violence in the past, but failed to call it genocide.

I'll get angry at the young and reckless driver of the Mercedes tomorrow, knowing that his stupidity is probably not connected to the flag he displayed. At least, as Samantha Power pointed out in an interview on KPFK yesterday, the idea of an Armenian Genocide is now widely accepted and understood as historical fact in the United States. It will just be a matter of time until the Turks come around. In the meantime, we have the economy to worry about, and Realpolitik.

This is the week that it was revealed that before Passover, at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Center in Israel, a volunteer docent named Itamar Shapira, 29 years old, was fired for improperly pointing out to some of his tours that a massacre of Palestinians occurred in Deir Yassin in 1948 and should also be kept in mind. Yad Vashem's statement said he was fired for using his position to advance his own "political agenda."

This is the week that President Obama spoke at the Holocaust Museum some moving words regarding the Holocaust and how all of us must not turn away when faced with crimes against humanity:

Today, and every day, we have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges -- to fight the impulse to turn the channel when we see images that disturb us, or wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others' sufferings are not our own. Instead we have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take -- whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place in Rwanda, those taking place in Darfur. That is my commitment as President. I hope that is yours, as well.

It will not be easy. At times, fulfilling these obligations require self-reflection. But in the final analysis, I believe history gives us cause for hope rather than despair -- the hope of a chosen people who have overcome oppression since the days of Exodus; of the nation of Israel rising from the destruction of the Holocaust; of the strong and enduring bonds between our nations.

It is the hope, too, of those who not only survived, but chose to live, teaching us the meaning of courage and resilience and dignity. I'm thinking today of a study conducted after the war that found that Holocaust survivors living in America actually had a higher birthrate than American Jews. What a stunning act of faith -- to bring a child in a world that has shown you so much cruelty; to believe that no matter what you have endured, or how much you have lost, in the end, you have a duty to life.

But anyone who stands on the side of justice, who opposes crimes against human rights, and who was not in a coma through the terrible days of December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009 as cluster bombs, white phosphorus, and disproportionate massacres of Palestinian civilians took place could hardly read or hear those words with an ironic shake of the head. Nor could they think how the continuing resistance of Palestinians and their "duty to life" persists in spite of the oppression and control exerted in their apartheid existence.

This is the week that the Israeli Demolition Forces (IDF) released their preliminary self-investigation of their assault on Gaza and decided that they did nothing wrong except a "few mistakes." This is the week that it was announced that Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gaza doctor who in January lost three of his daughters when IDF soldiers fired tank shells on his home, will share the Niarchos Prize for Survivorship with Nomika Zion from Sderot. You will note how the Jerusalem Post in reporting the announcement adds the official excuse that the soldiers who killed his daughters were "thinking there were terrorists inside." This is also the week that Dr. Mahmoud Iyad, who, during the daily four hour cease-fire watched Israeli soldiers shoot his two sons in front of him, killing one, and then watched the second one bleed to death because the Israeli soldiers would not let ambulances come, said that the IDF was lying. Dr. Lyad watched his dying son call his other brother in the United States to ask for help. We have recordings.

This is the week that the US boycotted the follow up UN Conference on Racism along with other European countries. This is the week that the garrulous President of Iran, Mahmoud AhmadiNejad gave a speech at the conference condemning Israel but also condemning the structure of the Security Council and calling for its reform, especially of the veto power. Instead of "denying the Holocaust," he talked of "the pretext of Jewish suffering" in creating the State of Israel (though he of course did not refer to a "State of Israel") and repeated that it was "in fact in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe." Perhaps that's progress of a sort, but very little. The President of Iran can be a blowhard at times, but I urge you to read the rush translation of the speech, especially if you have been criticizing the bailout of the Wall Street Bankers.

And this was the day that a genuine racist, Avigdor Lieberman, who has been elevated into a prominent position in the new Israeli coalition government, was quoted in an interview in the Jerusalem Post--to be published on Tuesday next week, the 61rst "Independence Day"of Israel--that the main obstacle to peace in the Mideast is Iran.

That's the pot calling the kettle black.

Anyone who stands on the side of justice after over sixty-one years since the UN partition vote, and who knows the ugly and internationally illegal "facts on the ground," who knows of the atomic arsenal of Israel, who knows of the continuing house demolitions and land grabs in East Jerusalem, and who keeps in mind the terrible destruction of Gaza last December and January, also knows--despite the protests of Avigdor Lieberman, that the greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the government of Israel.

To borrow President Obama's words, "we have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take."

No comments: