It is Time to Take a Deep Breath While Also Condemning Israel Policy in Gaza: Israel Has Contributed Enormous Good to the Global Community of Nations
By Nate Thayer
August 8, 2014
Israel’s unacceptable military campaign in Gaza, which by any definition under international law constitutes state sanctioned war crimes, has prompted a very disturbing concomitant, simple-minded hateful campaign sparking disturbing group think that has spilled into antisemitism.
The focus of objections to Israel’s outrageous war crimes against Palestinian civilians should have no linkage or mention of religion or ethnicity–Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or otherwise. It is irrelevant to the only important argument: targeting non combatants–civilians.
It is the legitimization of targeting civilians–most prominently the signature of Jihadists in recent years–that is the real crime and intolerable–whether by Israel, ISIS, Al Qaeda or the United States.
The invasion of Gaza by the State of Israel has been accompanied by an unprecedented backlash (in my view rightly so) on official Israeli state-sanctioned war crimes.
But the condemnation of Israel as the “bad guy” flavor of the current news cycle profoundly distorts the remarkable contribution Israel as a nation state has made to a more properly organized world.
Everyone should take a deep breath and try and keep these atrocities in perspective. The fact is that Israel has been a remarkably responsible and contributing member of the properly organized world community. Despite their outrageous, counterproductive, and often illegal foreign and military policies, Israeli contributions to the betterment of mankind are indisputable.
I have never been to Israel.
I have tried, but the Israeli security services, for reasons I still have no clue, would have none of that. In 2003, I attempted to cross by land from Jordan to the West Bank to visit the city of Jericho, and was unceremoniously thrown out of Israeli occupied Palestinian territory.
At the bridge at the south end of the Dead Sea that separates Jordan from Israeli occupied territory, one has to board a “neutral” bus. Once the bus, filled with mostly Palestinian passengers, was half way across the bridge, it was stopped by armed Israeli soldiers who boarded. They had no interest in any of the other passengers, but immediately armed Israeli agents pointed at me and my cameraman.
“You two, off,” they ordered.
We were taken to windowless separate rooms and interrogated for 3 and 1/2 hours. Our bags were ripped apart and strewn onto the floor, in an obviously intentional attempt at unnecessary humiliation. They treated me like an animal.
When they were done, they said: “Now get back on the bus and get the fuck out of Israel.” I wasn’t even in Israel, in fact. I was in Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel.
When I returned a few minutes later to Jordan, I explained to the taxi driver the rather befuddling experience I had just had.
“Now you know what it feels like to be a Palestinian,” he said to me.
A few weeks later (after a couple months detour to Baghdad in March and April 2003 where I was on the wrong end of George Bush’s “Shock and Awe”–not the most relaxing of my list of global vacation destinations in recent years), I found myself in New York.
From New York, I decided to attempt to return to Iraq and bought a ticket on the Israeli El Al airline from JFK airport to Tel Aviv, intending to go by land via Jordan back to Iraq. Waiting in line to board the flight, three El Al security agents approached me and asked me to accompany them to another windowless room. This time, they had no questions. They simply informed me that I was not going to be boarding that flight to Israel that night. They gave no reason, but they left no room for discussion.
“You are not getting on this airplane,” they said politely but with authority.
Occasionally, I can be a bit pig headed and don’t always take “no” for an answer well.
I left JFK airport and took a taxi to Newark International airport, about an hour away. There, I bought another ticket on United Airlines to Tel Aviv. While waiting in line to board, I was again approached by civilian security agents who did not identify themselves. “We apologize, but you will not be boarding this flight tonight,” they said. They gave no reason and they didn’t encourage discussion.
I accepted defeat.
There is a reason why El Al, the Israeli national airline is perhaps the safest airline in the world. Their security regiment is meticulous and inflexible and thorough. I lived in Bangkok for many years, my house across the street from the back entrance of the Hilton hotel, where the crew of El Al stayed. I was a daily user of their swimming pool, where the bikini clad El Al flight attendants–an appealing and noticebale group indeed–had their every move monitored by Israeli security agents. They took a different route to and from Bangkok’s Don Muong airport every time they came or left Bangkok. They travelled with full time security guards in vehicles owned by El Al. They had to report any interaction with foreigners of any sort–even when, on more than one occassion, the fetching flight attendants were kind enough to accept my social invitation to visit my house.
There was–and is–no room for security related error in Israel–for good reason. There are a lot of bad guys who want any Israeli–civilian or otherwise–dead.
Yeah, yeah, some of my best friends are Jews. And Blacks, and Gays. So let’s get that out of the way.
Actually, the truth is, I think most of my Jewish friends I don’t even know are Jews. And, now that I think about it, that is a good thing. Rarely do people ask me what church I do or do not attend.
So I am disturbed by the the transition from rightful and legitimate opposition to current Israeli military war crimes against Palestinians to bald antisemitism. Why the hell is it relevant what religion or ethnicity is behind the guns that are used to do things that international law forbids guns and their operators to do?
Frankly, I don’t care who is a Jew or who is a Palestinian or who is a Muslim or Christian or what passport somebody possess.
I do care when someone is a civilian. There is never an excuse to willfully target a civilian in war. Never. Once that road is crossed, there is no returning to civilized conflict resolution. There is no excuse. Ever.
But while deeply disturbed by Israeli state policy of murdering Palestinian civilians, I am prone to contrariness by nature, and I cannot be but deeply offended by the hateful and broad stroked attacks on Jews that the current objections to Israeli state policy have morphed into. It includes an ugly racism and antisemitism.
Parcel to that is the selective refusal to recognize the remarkable contributions the State of Israel has contributed–and continues to contribute–to the betterment of the global community.
For some perspective, here is a partial, incomplete and decidedly random list of how Israel has made each and every one of our lives better (with a hat tip to the rather otherwise objectionable site CommunismKills):
Regarding technology that impacts all of our daily lives in fundamental and profoundly beneficial ways, all Intel Pentium and Celeron computer processor chips were either developed or manufactured in Israel. Any computers running the Windows XT operating system were developed in Israel. Microsoft operating systems were largely created by Israeli research and development specialists. Many, if not most, anti-virus software and personal firewalls were created in Israel. The algorithm’s that are used for sending e-mails were developed in Israel at Ben-Gurion University.
The first mobile phones were manufactured in Israel. Mobile chip technology from one Israeli company is in over 100 million cell phones. Cell phone texting technology was developed in Israel. The 4G technology is an invention created in Israel. It was Israeli companies who invented the voice-mail system.
Regarding the dying concept of printed material, it is Israeli made technology that resulted in reducing 50% of the ink used to create the printed documents we currently rely on. Many of Facebook applications are Israeli made. AOL has its origins in Israel. Much of the technology behind today’s internet search engines are Israeli inventions. It is Israeli software which is largely responsible for Video On Demand and therefore many of the movies we watch. As is true for much of the technology for internet games, of which I have never once played but understand are popular among much of the planet. The same for e-book and data storage technology.
Much of the technology for electric cars, which have immensely contributed to a cleaner planet, were developed in Israel.
Cherry tomatoes were developed in Israel. It is Israeli innovation that is responsible for much of the honey production in the world. Much of the fruit, from South Africa to Peru, consumed by the world, is produced and distributed by Israeli companies.
And the world can thank Israel for by far the most remarkable innovations in water irrigation systems for agricultural development in arid regions of the planet, including much of Africa, China, India, and many other countries.
When it comes to medicine that has saved millions of lives, much of the world’s most remarkable life saving developments and progress are the result of Israeli innovation. And among the most affordable. Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals is the largest generic drugs company in the world.
At the forefront of medical science, much of the progress on research on cancer and AIDS are the result of Israeli companies and expertise. Israel’s Weizmann Institute and Hebrew University were the developers of the cutting edge AZT and Hypericin-based drugs and treatments that destroy HIV-infected cells without damaging healthy ones.
It is Israeli scientists who have been the leading innovators of addressing diabetes and Insulin treatments.
Copaxone, the leading Multiple Sclerosis medicine and the only non-interferon agent, is a product of the Israeli pharmaceutical company, Teva.
Israeli scientists are also responsible for the most effective medical treatments for Parkinson’s disease, and technology for early detection of heart disease and hardening of the arteries, saving thousands of lives worldwide regardless of what religion or ethnicity those who suffer from these maladies embrace.
The list is endless and also includes the leading technology and medicine that addresses epilepsy, Grande Mal seizures. Israeli research and development have had a profound effect on Macular Degeneration which has resulted in millions of people still able to see who otherwise would be blind.
Israeli-developed immunotherapy treatments for liver disease, treatments for emphysema, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, MS, epilepsy, glaucoma and brain tumors.
The first artificial heart transplant research and procedures took place in Israel.
Kidney transplant patients no longer must wait for donors of the same blood group as Israel developed methods for donors from other blood groups.
Israel developed the worlds only data base for people of Arab origin to match other Arab’s for bone-marrow transplants.
It is Israel who is responsible for the most important developments in Stem Cell research, many of the world’s most effective vaccines, and X-Ray technology that minimizes radiation exposure, not to mention heart stents that are directly responsible for millions still living who otherwise would be dead.
These are the fruits of a properly organized society and an immensely influential responsible contributor to a better global community of nations. That is Israel.
For my country, the United States, Israeli technology contributed to a remarkable estimated $2.4 billion in direct revenue to each of the 50 U.S. state’s economies in 2009, generating an average of 6,000 jobs.
The technology for the music recordings of U2, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Beck, Rihanna Coldplay and innumerable others use the sound technology of the Israeli company Wave Audio.
Much of the public transportation systems in Amsterdam, Moscow and China are Israeli designed and produced products.
And let’s not forget Israel’s remarkable innovation in water technology used by, well, most of the world, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, turning non productive land into food that feeds millions.
So let’s all be careful before throwing the baby out with the bath water. Let’s not make the same mistakes we have made over and over and over again: By objecting to egregious behavior of one government does not mean that government is devoid of attributes. Nor that its dominant religion is bad or responsible. Nor that its citizens are legitimate targets or guilty or culpable.
Nor does it make its political opponents good guys.
We did that In Iraq. We did that when opposing U.S. tactics against communism. We have done that in Syria. That the U.S or Saddam or Assad or Netanyahu are bad guys doesn’t mean their opponents are good guys. Let us not forget Hamas and ISIS and Saddam and Bin Laden all are the allies in condemning Israel.
One can condemn Israeli policy without descending into the sewage of racism or antisemitism. And we must.
I know nothing about the complexities of middle east history or even current foreign policy. And I am fully aware I am dipping my toes into very complex waters and will likely be savaged for this simple-minded premise.
But I do know more than enough of the free fire zone that is the broad brush stroke of hatred of religion and ethnicity. It is very ugly. Always. And that includes being directed towards the legitimate state of Israel and the religion and race of its inhabitants–whatever the hell they may be.