Madison/Rafah: Disconnect

It was closer than anyone could have expected, but Madison failed to do “something no other city has had the guts to do…form an official sister city relationship with a Palestinian city.” A city council member was reduced to tears by “how ‘cruel’ and ‘hateful’ some of the statements aimed at supporters of the proposal have been.” Even if the proposal had passed, the mayor planned to veto it.

The mayor felt that “adopting the sister city resolution would be in essence a criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government. He said he did not believe that Madison should take a position on Middle East policy.” As a candidate, before the Iraq invasion, he had “passed a test pf courage and conscience” by “participating in the reading of the pledge to resist a wrong-minded war” at a gala “Not In Our Name” event attended by 2000 people.

Performing at the antiwar gala was Ben Sidran. “This is what history feels like,” the jazz great said. Now Sidran puts tribal loyalty first. Now apparently a smear campaign is what history feels like.

For far too many in the antiwar camp, it’s as if Iraq and Palestine/Israel are on different planets. Far too many who have found intolerable Bush’s exploitation of “terrorism” to invade and occupy Iraq don’t seem to mind Sharon’s exploitation of “terrorism” to wreak destruction in the West Bank and Gaza. From both a moral and pragmatic point of view, toleration of Israel’s aggression undercuts opposition to America’s. Unless the Palestinians are treated with justice and dignity, there will always be “terrorism” for the U.S. war party to exploit.

In the case of antiwar, antiBush stalwart John Nichols, columnist for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times, the disconnect can be quantified. Of the 200 columns he’s written for TCT since January 1, 2003, 87 contain the word “Iraq” while only two contain “Israel.” One of the two was a fleeting reference and neither was this year. He’s had nothing to say about Madison/Rafah and, in over a year and a half, he’s said nothing about Israel’s “network of cages.”

Nichols’ astonishing record is a reflection of the fact that there is no liberal politician of any stature in this country who has the knowledge and decency to speak out on the Palestine issue. The easier path is to just avoid offending the Jewish sensibility, never mind that when it comes to Israel, by and large American Jews are in the grip of neurosis.