Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Extreme Neglect

Back in May, 2006, in a post titled 'Let's (Not) Talk About Israel', I concluded my thoughts with this:

It's long past the time when Americans need to face reality and have a frank and open discussion about Israel, without the fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. Political policies are not people and the policies of the Bush and Israeli administrations need to be questioned at every turn.

That post was a response to a New York Times editorial by Tony Judt who wrote:

The damage that is done by America's fear of anti-Semitism when discussing Israel is threefold. It is bad for Jews: anti-Semitism is real enough (I know something about it, growing up Jewish in 1950's Britain), but for just that reason it should not be confused with political criticisms of Israel or its American supporters. It is bad for Israel: by guaranteeing it unconditional support, Americans encourage Israel to act heedless of consequences. The Israeli journalist Tom Segev described the Mearsheimer-Walt essay as "arrogant" but also acknowledged ruefully: "They are right. Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better ...the Israel Lobby in the United States harms Israel's true interests."

And the recent escalation of events which has resulted in a new war between Israel and Lebanon exposes exactly why Americans should not have backed away from criticism out of fear of being labeled. The current explosive climate that they and the rest of the world now find themselves in is a result of extreme neglect on the part of not only the Bush administration but of those for whom having a frank discussion of Israel's policies in order to find a rational and workable solution has been avoided because it is simply uncomfortable.

Americans can no longer count on their government to solve their problems - those for which a government is generally regarded as being responsible, whether one believes in small government or not.

Witness the neglect of those struck by Hurrican Katrina, the refusal to engage directly in talks with North Korea or Iran, the devestating 'stay the course' policy in Iraq and Afghanistan for which no one has been held accountable, the failure to act immediately on the genocide in Darfur, the huge ballooning deficit, the fact that some 40 million Americans still don't have health care, the lack of a comprehensive energy policy that would end dependence on foreign oil, the farce that is 'No Child Left Behind', the complacency towards addressing the health and welfare needs of the troops, the inability to formulate an effective solution to the illegal immigration issue, the lack of funding and oversight of national security issues and the horrendous treatment of the so-called war on terrorism's imprisoned detainees and kidnap victims of torture flights. The list goes on and on.

This is a pattern of extreme neglect by an administration that seems incapable of adjusting its policies and philosophy in order to deal with pressing domestic and international needs, preferring instead to encourage its rubber stamp Republican congress to only focus on what is politcially expedient in order to hold onto power at the expense of the people they are supposed to serve. And those in the population who support such practices are complicit in the failures as are those who can't seem to summon the passion or energy that has been so evident lately as expressed by those millions who marched in the streets over immigration issues or those to the south of the US in Mexico who are now practicing massive displays of civil disobedience in the name of fair election practices.

The American public has been bludgeoned into complacency by a system that has proven that it is no longer relevant to those who sit in their cushy Washington offices and the press has been just as guilty by not challenging those in power. And now, when the reporters do speak up to expose the policies that have stripped away civil and human rights, they have become targets of a witch hunt worthy of Joe McCarthy. It is no longer safe to express dissent. Ask Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.

This is today's America. And perhaps nothing brings that home more on this day than the pictures of dead civilians in the Middle East who are also the victims of US inaction and neglect.

So, talk about Israel - no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Your anxiety is nothing compared to those who are now suffering as the missiles fall or the heartwrenching grief of those whose family members and friends are now dead or missing in the midst of a huge humanitarian crisis. Don't turn away. Don't practice extreme neglect.

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