Thursday, September 27, 2012

Racism (aka, here we go again...)

A friend of a friend just posted a link to an article with the comment, "She says it much more eloquently than I ever could."

The article, found here, concerns the NYC MTA's decision to allow ads that say, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” to be put up in 10 subway stations within New York City.

I agree, the ads are inflammatory-- and are meant to be. I think there are other ways of saying things, and, no I don't believe that all Muslims are bloodthirsty barbarians (or savages, to use the ad's wording).

This is the discussion that followed on the comment thread (note: I have changed the commentor's names to first initials, except mine which I have labeled "me"); M is the friend of the friend:

D: Great article, THANKS!!!
D: Zionist racism -- a redundancy? -- is rarely confronted with such eloquence
M:  I agree. I'm terrible. All I keep thinking is that I'm tired being called all these stupid names because I basically exist. I've been really quiet about this whole debacle for that reason. I'm glad there are people who are much more level-headed than I am.

D: I just had an extended e-kerfuffle with a prominent "liberal" film scholar. The guy finally showed himself as a racist, claiming that the UN had been bought by Arab money. This profound neurosis runs deeper every day. It must be confronted, which I usually do by calling my interlocutor a twat.
D: We're about to nuke Iran and few people care..
M: If the UN had been bought by Arab money, the UN is sure doing a crappy job keeping up their part of the bargain, no?
S: It's appaling, this whole thing - I'm kind of surprised the MTA allowed these to be posted - I understand the free speech issue at play in all of this, but these are just plain horrible. Would the MTA let the Westboro Church post an ad, too then?
M: I do wonder if we really are gonna nuke Iran... the US has been threatening it for years now.  
M: Sara, the MTA had been fighting it for a while, and originally told the organization that they couldn't go up. It got taken to court and, in the words of the MTA spokesperson, "their hands are tied."
E: These ads are vile. I say this as a human secularist, as an American, and as a person of Jewish descent. There is nothing in them I can agree with or support. Yes, they absolutely have the right to say it, but freedom of expression is not freedom of consequence of expression. This is the very wrongest way to have this conversation. I agree that we owe ourselves, future generations and America a chance to have this conversation in a meaningful and hate-free way.
Me: While I agree with the right to free speech and that the ads are inflammatory, I have a very big problem with a basis of her article. Ms. Sarsour wrote, "Geller elaborated that there is no Palestine – a view not held by most Americans." Whether or not most Americans hold the view that there is a place called "Palestine," the fact is-- there hasn't been since 1948, when the British Mandate of Palestine ended. Just because many people believe something does not make it true-- the world isn't flat, is it?

My friend's father can correctly say he was born in Palestine-- indeed, he was, when the area he was born in was under the British Mandate of Palestine. No one born since May 14, 1948, can say that he or she was born in Palestine, nor can he/she claim to be a Palestinian-- can anyone born in Massachusetts claim to be British, because at one time Massachusetts was a British colony? No, because the British colony of Massachusetts no longer exists.

D: Palestine was stolen via terrorist acts -- ask Rahm Emanuel's daddy, a former Irgun terrorist who shot babies. So you have old folks walking around with keys to their now bulldozed homes. Telling them to wake up and smell the coffee is just plain immoral. There are UN resolutions that call it illegal, too.
[note: D combined and deleted some of his original comments; each new comment is marked with a "-." the original of this was:
-Palestine was stolen via terrorist acts -- ask Rahm Emanuel's daddy, a former Irgun terrorist who shot babies.
-And so you have old folks walking around with keys to their now bulldozed homes. Telling them to wake up and smell the coffee is just plain immoral.
-There are UN resolutions that call it illegal, too.
-Marek Edelman fought Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto and, as a Universalist, claimed the PLO had a right to fight against Zionist oppression
-This issue ain't going away. Thank goodness for Israeli youth -- they're moving Left.]   
Me: There are lots of individuals that I can name who have argues on both sides, regardless of the issue.
In terms of infants-- would you like me to start naming the babies who have b
een killed in terror attacks?
 This was not meant to turn into a pissing contest of who has done more wrong to who and who is more in the right. I brought up a historical fact, and you turned it into "Here are examples of the bad Zionists who stole Palestine." I agree that there was a place called Palestine, however I also state that it no longer exists. Simply having existed once upon a time does not make something exist at this moment. To go back to my earlier example-- what about the British colonies that no longer exist as British colonies? Can I, having born in an area that at one time was under British rule, claim British nationality? Or if I was born in Turkey, can I claim to be Ottoman?

And what do you say to and about people like me, my husband, and the other medic on duty two nights ago who, when we got a call to an Arab village for injured people, got out of our nice warm beds and in the middle of the night went to take them to the hospital? The Red Crescent was supposed to take them (there is a Red Crescent ambulance station in that area, by the way) and didn't show up until 20 minutes after we got there (in our defense, we wanted to take whoever we could asap-- the patients wanted to wait for the Red Crescent, and then decided to go with us). We took those patients to the hospital of their choice. And when they got there and saw that there was no doctor on duty (don't ask me why), they decided they wanted to go to another hospital. And we took them.

So don't only thank goodness for Israeli youth-- thank goodness for the people who don't care if their patients are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Arab, Israeli, or anything else and treat them regardless. (you do know that homicide bombers and terrorists get treated as well, right?)

S: Yikes - that's really unfortunate, Margo. I guess it's nice to know the MTA tried...still doesn't really make it any better, though. I wish people didn't feel the need to resort to hateful name calling in subway advertisements as opposed to, well, an actual discussion. These kind of reactions harken back to New York a century ago, when instead of Palestinians, it was Italians and Irish...
[D posted and deleted the following comments; again, each new comment is marked by a "-":
-Lauren: you have a bizarre perspective. Operation Cast Lead? if you think the casualties on the Israeli side come anywhere near to the number o Palestinian dead, then you are, sorry, wrong.
-Your rage is irrelevant.]
Me: Daniel, I'm going to stop this now not because I don't have what to say or don't have facts to back what I say up, but because it's just going to turn into something ugly and hateful.

You have your opinion and viewpoint, I have mine, and neither of us are going to change the other's. So let's just stop, because this is not helping any progress.

D:  Lauren: you have a bizarre perspective. Operation Cast Lead? if you think the casualties on the Israeli side come anywhere near to the number o Palestinian dead, then you are, sorry, wrong. Your rage is irrelevant. People are tired of filtering discussions about war crimes through Jewish sensitivity. Be sensitive, be angry, be self-righteous. The occupation is going to end with or without your help. Israel is in the driver's seat, as the fourth most powerful military presence on Planet Earth. The idea of symmetrical responsibility is a fetid lie. Americans are sick of spending $10M per day on the longest-running occupation in the world. And, yes, young people in Israel are joining enormous protests against their government -- I'm with them.

My FB status:
[Lauren] would like to reiterate: Palestine no longer exists. It existed from 1920-1948; no longer. You cannot claim nationality or citizenship of a place simply because it USED to exist; I cannot claim British nationality or citizenship simply because where I was born was once under British colonial rule...

I debated replying to D with a list of babies murdered by terrorists, of names of people who "were on both sides" of a given issue, about the reasons for Operation Cast Lead and inform him exactly where the fire was getting shot at Israel from. I restrained myself. Not because I wanted to-- I want to rip him a new one-- but because there is no purpose in a one-sided debate. Someone wants to actually talk, I'm up for it. Someone wants to tell his side and insist he is right and throw out random facts-- wasting his time and mine.

I did like my point about someone being born in a formerly British area claiming British citizenship because they were born somewhere that USED to be under British rule. (British friends, field day with that one?)

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