For the good of Palestine and Israel: Bring the political exiles home!

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The National Comrades of Color Caucus of the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women turns over its regular space this issue to Dr. Raya Fidel, a Jewish activist and professor of library and information science at the University of Washington in Seattle. The column below was written in February 1993 and widely published in Jewish, left, and mainstream papers. Since then, the situation for Palestinian detainees has only worsened.

On December 17, 1992, the Israeli government dumped more than 400 Palestinians into a barren, no-man’s land in southern Lebanon to collectively punish all Palestinians for the death of an Israeli soldier. As a Jew born, raised and educated in Tel Aviv, I condemn the expulsion of the Palestinian deportees.

I have long felt that Israel must return the occupied territories and allow Palestinians to form a state — as the first step in building a joint, socialist state governed by both peoples. But as long as Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and Gaza, it is responsible for the well-being of the inhabitants.

Israeli rationales don’t wash. The deportees were primarily highly educated men against whom no charges could be brought because no evidence exists that any of them are linked to the soldier’s death. The Islamic organization Hamas took responsibility for the killing, so Israel “justified” its action by claiming that the deportees are Hamas supporters.

Israel was later forced to admit that some of the deportees had been seized by mistake.

The conditions under which these men are trying to survive remind me of descriptions of the death camps of Bosnia.

On exposed, rocky ground, the Palestinians live in flimsy tents in sub-zero weather. The Israeli government refuses to allow the Red Cross to provide food and medical supplies and has even tried to prevent villagers in the area from helping. Some of the men are in serious need of medical care, but only a few have been permitted to receive it.

Despite their cruel actions, Israeli officials deny any responsibility for the fate of the deportees. Instead, they blame the Arab world — particularly Lebanon and Syria — for not taking the men into their countries. Israel has always done this to cover up its own racism and ethnocentrism.

This repellent violation of universal ethical and human values makes no sense to me. First, the Jewish tradition is humanistic. Every life is precious both for itself and for the progeny it will bring forth. Jews of the Diaspora fought to end suffering of all people, knowing that oppression against any persons would lead to the suffering of Jews as well.

Second, the deportations achieved the exact opposite of Israel’s stated goal. Instead of intimidating the Palestinian community and dissuading it from further protests against occupation, waves of massive demonstrations sweep the occupied territories, another Israeli is killed, and the Palestinian delegation withdraws from the peace talks.

This outcome is hardly surprising: on every Passover, we are reminded that the harder the Egyptians pressed the children of Israel, the stronger became the resistance of our oppressed ancestors.

The Israeli government is obviously ignoring this ancient lesson.

Zionism is the cause of this injustice. Why does the government of the Jewish state ignore the lessons of Jewish history and act in such an un-Jewish manner? Because the government is Zionist.

Zionism is a nationalistic ideology which is based on the assumption that Jews are the only legitimate owners of the “promised land.” The ideology is fanned today by memories of the Holocaust and is embellished by U.S. oil interests in the Mideast.

Spurred by intense European anti-Semitism in the 19th century, the growing Zionist movement called on Jews to emigrate to Palestine — blind to the fact that the area was already densely populated.

The Israeli regime perpetuates this blindness, but the Palestinians persistently rebel.

In response, Zionism evolved into a blatantly racist ideology.

The right wing of the Zionist movement makes no effort to disguise its racism. Early on, Menachem Begin declared that the Palestinians were beasts with two legs; former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir claims Arabs have no respect for human life and enjoy murder.

As an Israeli child, I was taught in school that the Arabs were not human beings like us, that they didn’t need to eat more than a few olives a day, and that they would stab you in the back no matter how friendly they might seem.

This Zionist ideology also governs the justice system. The Israeli Supreme Court declared the deportations to be legal and usually allows Jewish rightwing fundamentalists to go unpunished when they murder innocent Palestinians.

The Palestinian uprisings (Intifada) of the last several years clearly show that faced with continuing oppression, resistance ever intensifies.

And Zionism, born out of the desire for a secure Jewish homeland, will inevitably lead to destruction of that very Home.

End expulsions by ending U.S. aid. We in the U.S. can help prevent the twin disaster to both Palestinian and Jewish peoples without spending a dime for troops. We can do this by halting the billions in U.S. aid for Israeli aggression.

Countless Jews like myself in Israel, America, and around the world call on President Clinton and the new U.S. Congress to cut off all support to Israeli militarism and to return the deportees. Israel’s security rests not in missiles but in collaboration with its co-inhabitants and neighbors. Jews will never be safe while Arabs are exterminated.

Hope for the Middle East resides in achieving Arab-Jewish harmony, which in turn must rest on a rejection of imperialist values and the creation of a mutually beneficial socialist sharing of resources, knowledge and common goals. Two great peoples can live together — communally.

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