My deep condolences go to the family, friends, and comrades of those who were killed or injured by this latest unjustifiable atrocity.  

There was a demonstration here in Boston yesterday, one of many around the world against Israel's act of piracy.  I learned about it too late to go, and haven't yet heard anything about how it went.  But when I was thinking about if I could go, a chant came to me, bearing the message I would have wanted to say there.  I doubt it would have been welcome.  I was thinking:

<i>No more pirates; no more knives -
No more games with human lives!</i>

It's been awhile since I've participated in the kind of non-violent direct action (not the same as protest) that the Free Gaza flotillas have brilliantly exemplified.  But I have done so, and I know that its success depends on the firm commitment of participants to maintain a non-violent approach, even when resisting unjust violence by armed authorities.  

As much as I am repulsed by Israel's unnecessary and self-destructive brutality, and knowing that they are fully responsible for the assault and the murders they committed, I must say that I am also disgusted with what I see as the betrayal committed by those participants in the Free Gaza flotilla who took up arms against the invading Israeli commandos.  Not because I think self-defense is illegitimate; I don't.  But let those who want that kind confrontation organize their own effort, train themselves in hand-to-hand combat if they wish, and then go out to provoke an attack so they can be glorious martyrs all by themselves.  I will grieve for them and for their choice.  

Instead, for their hour of exhilaration, they brought down the fury of Israel's enraged and frightened special combat forces also on their nonviolent partners to whose path they had made, or feigned, a commitment.  Do you think the commandos retaliated so precisely that the casualties of their attack were all and only the ones who beat them?  Neither do I.  

Videos show some of the passengers gathered to receive the rappelling commandos with iron blows, and hurling bodies over the side (reminiscent of Hamas's treatment of Fateh supporters during the civil conflict in Gaza after the Palestinian election).  These videos will be broadcast as widely and frequently as the Israeli government and its defenders can manage.  Naturally, Free Gaza spokespeople are downplaying this as an almost instinctive and understandable, if regrettable, lapse into self-defense.  But what will be the effect on FG's image and prospects in the coming year?  On their ability to recruit the necessary support from various governments, prestigious international leaders, and other participants commited to nonviolence?  On the prospects for their, or anyone's future challenges to the blockade?

Israel's response to the violent defense they encountered on the Turkish boat was so ugly (and Free Gaza so European and non-Palestinian) that they are taking quite a hit in the international arena.  Is this a propaganda victory for those who risked both their own and their nonviolent comrade's lives to provoke that response?  What if they had exercised the passive resistance for which Free Gaza (they say) had trained them?  No carnage, no international criticism?  I don't think so.  I think we've all experienced enough images of the massively armed Israeli David defending itself against the feeble brutality of the antizionist Goliath to know that whatever criticism of Israeli aggression it engenders is undercut by the perception of two comparably nasty antagonists endlessly slugging it out. 

Much of Palestinian gains have come through nonviolent means.  Minimal as those gains are, they still make a significant difference in both the lives of Palestinians under occupation and in the political prospects of the Palestinian people as a whole.  In the West Bank, for example, there is now a rapid rate of economic growth and job creation in the West Bank, where the leadership has also, with the support of the Obama administration, more or less forced a reluctant right-wing Israeli government to enter into final status negotiations and give lip service at the outset to a two-state solution.  This coincides with the most extensive network of internationally supported (including support from much of the Israeli left, as in Sheikh Jarrah) nonviolent Palestinian resistance to occupation there has ever been, laying the groundwork for the international campaign of "anti-apartheid" boycott, divestment and sanctions that would likely emerge as the next phase of struggle if a two-state solution is taken off the table by another failure of negotiations.  How much of this could have been accomplished by, or even during, the Al-Aqsa intifada?  None.  Compare this to the bleak situation in Gaza, for which Hamas proudly claims violent "victory," where the economy and public health are tatters and the ability of ordinary Palestinians to engage in independent political resistance is extremely limited.  

Participants in the Free Gaza movement cannot afford to "make Israel look bad" at the cost of crawling down into the mud with them.  The power and beauty of passive resistance is that the passengers could just as well have exposed Israeli aggressiveness without losing the moral high ground and, more importantly, without loss of life - all while growing the pool of credible and influential future participants.  I hope Free Gaza's internal response to this tragedy will be as incisive and clear-minded as what I've seen so far of their public response.  

But supporters of Palestinian rights must examine our own motivating impulse at a deeper level than a strategic cost-benefit analysis.  Are we confronting zionism as an irredeemable evil that we must reveal (or goad the zionists themselves into revealing) to a world that stubbornly refuses to adequately recognize it?  Or do we want to model - and thereby invite from those who, in fear, stand against us - the kind of compassion, humility, and repentance that are ultimately essential for reconciliation to occur?  Because that is the underlying spiritual vision of nonviolent action.  

Love and blessings,

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salam hello naomi actully what you saying is wrong you see muslims cant be antisemitism because we arabs see us selfs as semitic we say we are the same origion as the jews no defrence they are the sons of isaak and we are the sons of ismail so what you say is not right
Someone I know from my years at an American school in Amman, Jordan posted something that said, "Helen Thomas is an anti-Semitic idiot." I replied, "Aren't Arabs Semites, too?" Helen Thomas is a smart, tough lady who's not afraid to take anyone to task for not addressing the blockade in Gaza, but I don't believe she's anti-Semitic.
I also don't think she's antisemitic (not that I'm in a position to really know), but her recent comments certainly were, and grossly offensive. I'm glad she had the courage, grace, and good sense to apologize for it quickly - unlike some of her new-found admirers.

As for Arabs and antisemitism, see my reply to Ali Salim, currently in progress....
Unless someone decided to twist what she said into something grossly offensive. I agree with you, though, that she had the courage, grace and good sense to apologize for it quickly. I've been an admirer of hers since before George W. Bush took office.
There are a couple of unfortunate nouns that have been traveling through 20th Century history more for their sound than sense. Quite correctly, "semitic" is a language concept--a family of languages--and not a racial concept. Don't shoot me over this, but . . . Arabs include Arab Jews or Palestinian Jews or Gaza Jews or Arabian Jews (before Muhammad "cleansed" them from his immediate sphere of initial influence) because the people indigenous to the region are so in their entirety for the purposes of the Nth of a percent of DNA responsible for racial attributes.

Furthermore, it must be noted from the Book of Exodus that Moses led out of Pharonic Egypt a "mixed multitude"--not a community of Jews only, but a community of Jews and disaffected Egyptians and whoever else cared to follow; moreover, in that mythic story, he treated all as equals.

Gaza: the storied presence of the Jews dates back 3700 years; the archeological record has turned up evidence of a synagogue and Jewish art as far back as 1500BCE.


Any who care to look will find this data, dimension by dimension, issue by issue, increasingly available from credible sources, including Arab scholars, via the web.

The term "anti-Semitic" has been transposed in place of "against the Jews" or, more emotionally accurate, "hateful in the presence of the Jews".

"Holocaust" serves as another institutionalized noun to represent the Nazi engineered genocide of the Jews of Europe. Whether "Shoah" or some other label would have better served, who knows? "Holocaust" is the term most frequently used and the subject less of serious contention--we know what happened, the whole world does--but as a subject convenient to the demonstrations of the powers of cowards, for to "deny the Holocaust" may be made to look like a big deal by thugocrats for those too ignorant and reduced as humans--deprived of the freedom of open communications first of all-- to see the ploy for what it is.
salaam-shalom Ali,

I'm surprised to hear you say that Muslims cant be antisemitic because Arabs are semitic. I'm sure you know, probably better than I do, that most Muslims are in no way Arab. But, I agree that Arab and Jewish origins are similar - in fact, some studies have shown a very close genetic relationship between Jews and Palestinians (which perhaps shouldn't be so surprising). And I understand that Muslims consider themselves spiritual descendants of Ishmael.

Now let's see if you can also try to understand, with some help, how most Jews see this question, and why most of us don't respond very well to the idea that "Arabs can't be antisemites because they are semites themselves." I'm going to start by trying to tell a very long and complicated story as briefly as I can.

You probably know there was a long history of Jew-hatred in Christian Europe. (Less so in the Arab world or the pagan world before it.) Sometimes it was called by a fancy Latin word, Judeophobia, meaning fear or hatred of Jews (just like people talk about Islamophobia today), It was mostly a religious thing; for example, the church taught that "the Jews killed Christ" - and for Christians, that meant we killed G!d (as if that were possible!). But in modern times, as kings and then nation-states grew more powerful than the church, and as capitalism began to emerge, religious conflict between Christians and Jews became also economic and political. Those who continued to see Jews as a dangerous alien presence began to speak of it differently, eventually in the fake-science language of "race." In our time, nearly everyone agrees racism is a terrible thing. But in the early 20th century, racism was widely seen as the exciting new science of humanity. Until then, there was no such thing as a "semitic race." There were only semitic languages, like Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew. Secularized European Jew-hateres called Jews "semitic" in order to paint them as an alien race that, for "biological" reasons, could not become and integral part of European nations. Thus, the new word "antisemitism" was born - first used by antisemites themselves, to advance their new "science."

I tell this story here because it makes two important points: 1) Until racism came along, semitic was a linguistic, not racial-genetic, term, and there is in truth no semitic race - neither Jews nor Arabs/Muslims, both of which include, for example, people of a full spectrum of skin color. By tradition, Arabs and Jews are both Abrahamic peoples, and that is not a racial concept, but more like an extended multiracial and culturally diverse family. So, no, Ali, neither you nor I are semites; it's just a word and idea invented by racists to further their own purposes.

2) Those European racists did not use that word of Arabs or Assyrians or other speakers of semitic languages. They used it only of Jews. That's why Jews still now understand the word to mean racism against us. That's why so many of us get very upset at the claim that Arabs (or anyone else) can't be antisemites because they are semites. It doesn't matter if they are semites (though they are not, and neither are we), because antisemite never meant hatred of semites - it meant, and still means, hatred of Jews.

If you want to test the accuracy of what I just said, ask yourself this: When Arabs or Muslims or anyone else are talking about hatred directed at them by the Christian or post-Christian (or colonial or post-colonial) West, do they ever call it (do you ever call it, "antisemitism"? Of course not. People call it Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, orientalism, and so on - words that emerged, each in their own context, for that purpose. The context for the invention of the word antisemitism was Jew-hatred, not "semite"-hatred or hatred of semitic-language speakers.

Imagine how you would feel if you were speaking about the Japanese empire's colonization of Islamic countries, and a Japanese person replied, "Oh but we can't be orientalist, because we are oriental too!" The analogy is not perfect, but maybe it can give you a sense of why most Jews respond poorly, often angrily, to the denial of Arab antisemitism.

In any case, some kinds of very serious antisemitism are frighteningly easy to find in Arab and Muslim society. The most disturbing and far-reaching example I know of is the widespread credibility given by so many people (governments, opposition movements, religious leaders, secular intellectuals and ordinary people) to one of the most damaging fraudulent texts of European Jew-hatred: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. When that book and its inflammatory ideas no longer hold a place of influence throughout the Muslim world, I will be ready to consider the possibility that antisemitism has no place there.

I should have read your reply first--much better than my sorry attempt . . . . Still, the bottom line is we're dealing with bigotry or prejudice, and it's fair to ask whether such attitudes are bi-directional.
James, I would not only ask whether such attitudes go both ways; I would assume they do - but on the part of only some people in either community. Even for those who do express such bigotry, there is a diffrerence between being motivated by it and merely allowing it to be triggered by the immediate conflict. The problem is that when the conflict is ongoing, the antipathy and chauvinism are constantly being triggered, so that over time they tend to acquire a motivating power of their own. The only remedy ("tikkun"), I think, is to develop one's spiritual capacities for a more generous openheartedness and for vigilance over oneself.

hello my friend listen my brother when they say antisemtitic yes you a right they mean the jews but how come do people think you hate jews while we really do not hate jews because as you know we are the same familiy and yes you are right its been proved genically and languge matter that arab and jews are close i know other muslims is not only the arabs and the assyrian and the jews but i want to bring my idea infront of everybody because many jews think we are antisemtitic while we are not i never hate the jews when arabs and jews are fighting eachother its not a war of religion its a war of politics iam i not right i see the jews as my brother now and for ever
Thank you so much for your encouraging reply, Ali. I believe you, and I don't for a moment think (and never did) that you are an antisemite. I'm traveling now and having some trouble with this borrowed computer, but I will respond more fully when I am able, insha'Allah.

iam from iraq and we arabs and jews are familiy



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