SEEK JUSTICE, ONLY JUSTICE
by Paul Findley
Because of the gross, longstanding bias in U.S. policy in the Middle East, the world teeters on the precipice of widening conflict focused -- sadly, unnecessarily, dangerously -- on religion: Christendom versus Islam. Those are strong words, frightening words, but they are the truth.
Since I found myself in the thicket of Middle East politics nearly forty years ago, I have done little else than seek justice for Arabs deeply aggrieved by our policy bias. This pro-justice endeavor is motivated mainly by my deep concern for America.
At 84, I sometimes feel old enough to have heard God's command to Moses, as recorded in Deuteronomy: "Seek justice, only justice." That command is my watchword. Despite the efforts of many brave people to bring about a just reform, the bias continues -- more flagrant and costly each year. The peril confronts all Americans. No one can escape.
In Middle East policy, America ignores injustice, because religion-based passions here at home override even vital national interests. Our bias is not controlled by government officials but by two peculiar, politically powerful religious communities -- fundamentalist Christianity, on one hand, and on the other an extreme element of Judaism.
Together, they burden our country year after year with an Israel-centric foreign policy that is disastrous to America's vital interests. Both groups have a deep-seated, passionate attachment to the State of Israel, no matter how outrageous its behavior becomes. Both are represented powerfully in Washington and exert a suffocating level of influence throughout America's political system, as well as in almost every other part of our society.
This influence is abetted unwittingly by suicide bombers, professed Muslims who engage in reprehensible violence mainly as a barbaric protest against foreign occupation of their land. In doing so, they defy the rules of Islam and Christianity by taking their lives and the lives of innocent people and thus frustrate the efforts of people who define Islam correctly as a generous, tolerant and peaceful religion.
Nearly one-half of the American people harbor false, ugly images of Islam and want the civil liberties of U.S. Muslims curtailed. Most Americans also seem oblivious to the peril before all of us. They are unaware of the flagrant bias in our policies and the price we pay for this bias.
Despite the wonders of the Information Age, few know the truth about how our flawed policies in the Middle East are put in place. Almost everyone who knows the truth is afraid to speak out. This unofficial but effective censorship is deadly. It has unwittingly has led us step by step into deep trouble, even war.
Of the two religious communities cited above, the older and more skillful one is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The newer but much larger one is the fundamentalist Christian community that is guided by a controversial interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation.
AIPAC consists almost exclusively of Zionists, activists whose behavior is actually disapproved by the majority of U.S. Jews. My book, "They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby", details the origin, history and tactics of AIPAC.
Ultra-Orthodox Zionists believe their messiah will not arrive until Greater Israel -- Biblical Israel -- comes into being. This means the incorporation of the entirety of the West Bank and East Jerusalem into Israel proper. In both Israel and the United States, such Zionists exert great political power. They receive U.S. financing, both public and private, and are the primary force that establishes and expands the illegal Jewish settlements that now consign Palestinians to isolated enclaves like those that once existed in apartheid South Africa.
Christian fundamentalists are not as tightly organized as AIPAC, but they consist of more than 50 million members. They are well disciplined on election days and have attained great political power in recent years. They were prominent in Bush's presidential campaigns.
The two communities make strange bedfellows. Judaic doctrine makes no mention of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalist Christian doctrine proclaims that when Christ returns to earth, all Jews will either be converted to Christianity or be destroyed. The two groups are bound tightly together today by an immediate interest -- the survival of a strong, expanding Israel as an essential precondition for the arrival on earth of their separate messiahs.
Together, the two communities control U.S. policy in the Middle East. They are so powerful that Congress dutifully approves massive aid to Israel every year with no debate whatever. No mention is made of Israel's continuing record of destroying Palestinian society through military conquest, assassinations and wholesale destruction of lives, homes and means of livelihood. On Capitol Hill, there is no mention of the grave harm this bias causes to U.S. national interests.
Year after year, our government enables Israel to defy the rules of international law and the UN Charter with impunity. Due to media bias, few Americans are aware of this scofflaw conduct, but most other people worldwide, especially Muslims, follow this abuse with mounting anti-American fury. The rage over recently published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad is thought by many observers to be a spontaneous eruption of anger among Muslims toward the West. Some anger may be spontaneous, but most is grounded in the long-festering bitterness over U.S. complicity in the plight of mostly-Muslim Palestine. In President Bush's campaign against terrorism, he has failed to recognize that 9/11's real Ground Zero was never Manhattan or the Pentagon. It was always Palestine and remains so today.
What motivated the 9/11 assault against America? It was a grisly payback for America's complicity in Israel's bloody assault on Arabs years ago. In several televised statements, Osama bin Laden cited as motives for 9/11 U.S. complicity in Israel's 1982 bombing of Beirut, as well as our subsequent role in Israel's destruction of Palestinian society.
Using U.S.-supplied armor, bombs and bullets, Israel killed more than 18,000 innocent Arabs in Beirut. This provoked worldwide anti-American fury that intensified when Congress immediately voted funds to restore the inventory of munitions Israeli forces consumed in the massacre. I know. I was a Member of Congress when the vote occurred.
The 9/11 calamity and our costly, stumbling wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq are the ugly off-springs of our longstanding complicity. Worldwide resentment against Israel and the United States has deepened with each passing year. President Bush's failure to recognize and redress these Arab grievances is the main reason for the lethal insurgency now underway against our forces in Iraq. This failure quickens our fateful pace as we plunge toward the precipice of a widespread war over religion.
Our best way to pull back from the precipice is to pull U.S. military forces and contractors out of Iraq. Sadly, Bush shows no sign of changing course. Our peril deepened in the wake of 9/11 when Bush received bad advice from Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, my colleagues years ago in the House of Representatives. Overreacting to 9/11, they convinced the president that the assault made him all-powerful as commander-in-chief and that he had a free rein to ignore Congress and tradition and could change U.S. policies as he wished.
Bush immediately acted the part, proclaiming his right to commit acts of war any place he alone found a threat to our security. He scrapped national sovereignty, the bedrock of the nation state, rammed through a panicky Congress an unpatriotic Patriot Act and pledged to maintain U.S. forces and foreign bases at a level sufficient to police the world.
He initiated inconclusive, stumbling wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now hints at an assault on Iran. Syria may be next.
I am not an isolationist. The world needs policing, but no single nation state should attempt that role. It is the proper job for a multinational organization which our government should be helping to create. I use plain language. Perhaps what I say troubles you deeply. In these perilous I must speak the truth as I believe it to be.
How did we get in this mess? How do the religious lobbies maintain this tight grip on U.S. policy?
They use America's political system with great skill. They vote. They take part in political campaigns. They contribute generously to candidates who do their bidding and against those who do not. Their most powerful instrument of intimidation is the reckless charge of anti- Semitism. I know the sting. It works. It makes people who know the truth about our complicity cower in silence.
Few Americans know -- but all should know -- of the silent but effective support of Israel that exists within our government bureaucracy. Almost every office in the executive branch and for congressional committees that has any role in Middle East policy formulation has at least one staff member who takes the personal responsibility of protecting the interests of Israel as each piece of paper passes through his or her desk. My book is replete with examples. Our government is truly Israeli-occupied territory, but few citizens are aware of this reality.
Today's bloody mess started a half-century ago on Capitol Hill when the lobby for Israel first promoted a heavy bias in U.S. policy in the Middle East. Its activities thoroughly intimidated our political institutions and effectively stifled debate. I know firsthand. I was a Member of Congress for 22 years and have watched developments closely ever since.
By silencing dissent, the pro-Israel lobby intimidates not just the Congress but the entire nation. Former Ambassador George W. Ball spoke accurately when he said that Congress behaves like trained poodles, jumping through hoops held by lobbyists for Israel. Senators Charles Percy and Adlai Stevenson and Representatives Paul "Pete" McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, Earl Hilliard and myself are among those defeated at the polls by candidates heavily financed by pro-Israel forces. Only McKinney later returned to Congress.
Nationally, not just on Capitol Hill, the State of Israel is treated as sacrosanct. It is rare when a word critical of Israel is expressed even in private conversation. This is true in the media, academia, social circles and business communities. Almost everyone, afraid to speak out, has an excuse for silence. Lobby intimidation even suffocates free speech in houses of worship. It should surprise no one that Congress, with hardly a murmur of protest, recently approved resolutions saluting the prime minister of Israel for building high walls and fences that keep Palestinians penned up on their own land like cattle.
I believe 9/11 would not have occurred if the U.S. had refused to support Israel's humiliation and destruction of Palestinian society. Any president of the past 38 years could have brought peace to the Middle East by suspending all aid until Israel withdrew from Arab land it seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Why did Bush order the invasion of Iraq? Israeli footprints are found every step of the way. U.S. General Anthony Zinni, once Bush's special emissary to the Middle East, spoke the truth recently when he said Israel and oil are the widely accepted reasons for the invasion. I will add that almost everyone knows that Israel was the stronger of the two reasons. The war in Iraq was for Israeli interests, not American. If we commit acts of war against Iran or Syria, these too will be mainly to help Israel.
The raging insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq is linked directly to the plight of the Palestinians nearby. How can we expect Iraqis to trust our promise of freedom for them when a few miles away we maintain our abject, decades-long complicity in Israel's denial of freedom for Palestinians?
The best way to stop both the insurgency in Iraq and the gathering storm of Christendom versus Islam is to suspend all U.S. aid until Israel vacates illegal settlements it has established throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem and withdraws from Arab territory it has held illegally since June 1967.
In Iraq, we should announce plans for a total withdrawal of the U.S. military and contractor personnel by an early date, stating clearly that the only units exempt from withdrawal would be any that are expressly requested by the Iraqi government and the UN Security Council.
These two announcements would sweep away the dark clouds of religious war and quickly dampen the Iraqi insurgency. They would be greeted with worldwide rejoicing as heralding a dramatic return of U.S. policy to the high ground it once occupied.
Is the scene hopeless? Of course not. We are on the eve of a new election cycle. Every one of us has the opportunity -- yes, the responsibility -- to speak up at political gatherings, ask precise questions of candidates and demand precise answers. We can write letters to the editor and engage directly in partisan campaigns.
We must reject preemptive war as an instrument of public policy. Supporters of war turn to scripture for misleading inspiration. Let us take our inspiration from Deuteronomy, where God instructed Moses with these words: "Seek justice, only justice." The peril is immediate and great, but it is not too late for justice.
I am 84. I've been on the firing line for justice in U.S. policy in the Middle East for nearly half my life. I do not regret a minute of that long endeavor. I will never give up. Will you help?
Paul Findley was a Member of Congress, 1961-83, and is the author of five books, the latest being "Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam". He resides in Jacksonville, Illinois.
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