07 August, 2006

A Word from the USA

Disclaimer: The following has no connection to A Word A Day (in the UAE).

This is a request to our Community's fans who are States-side. (I know there are some, perhaps many.) I think you get a picture of how we see this whole Lebanon/Israeli Attack issue. The balance I'm sure is weighted in favor of the idea that Israel is way off on this one.

But I have heard that most Americans (those in the USA, I presume) support Israel's actions. It would be interesting if people States-side could shed some light on this. Afterall, the keys to this whole conflict (it can be argued) rests with the USA.

41 comments:

Tainted Female said...

'Disclaimer: The following has no connection to A Word A Day (in the UAE).'

rofl!

This Disclaimer is the reason why I laughed for the first time today. lol.

Thank you. You have no idea how much that actually means to me right now.

And by the way, I'd be interested in seeing what American's have to say about this myself. So great post!

Woke said...

And without a hyperlink to your blog.
Too cool BD.

Ready to take on the Americans :D

nativeinformant said...

I am American and very opposed to Israel's actions, as are all of my friends. But, the general view people get overseas is that American public opinion is for Israeli military action. The government definitely is, but the govt here is becoming more and more unpopular. I think the problem is not that most Americans are in favor of Israel, although many are, but that most are apathetic and uninformed, and will therefore follow the lead of the govt and others if pressed to give their opinion.
After living in the Middle East for 6 months, I was very taken aback by just how pro-Israel the US govt rhetoric is. Not that I didn't already know this but it was just a lot more jarring after not having to deal with it for so long. Also, the Mel Gibson story borke right around the time that Israel ramped up its offensive, and basically took over the news here for a while. I don't think this is a coincidence. Most Americans can't (or won't) make a distinction between Jews in general and Zionists, and therefore anything anti-Israeli becomes anti-semitic. So after the Gibson thing, I think people are less likely to come out and say anything, lest they sound like him. Just my opinion and observations of course. I don't speak for all Americans, and being brown and female, don't really have the mainstream American experience either, if there is such a thing.

i, Bobo said...

Okay, I'll give it a shot as well.

Yes, the overwhelming majority of public sentiment is Pro-Israeli.

I'm currently on the west coast in a very blue state. Last night I went to dinner with about 20 friends. The breakdown in opinion was about 18 to 2 regarding Hezbollah, a little less regarding Hamas and Palestine.

In relation to Hamas, the people I spoke with felt somewhat betrayed. They invested quite a bit into the idea that the Israelis had pulled out of Gaza and that this was a big first step toward Palestinian statehood. Most claimed not to care who ran the PA as long as they were not corrupt and were legitimately interested in peace. However, there was a majority opinion the Palestinians blew the opportunity and seemed unwilling to cease and desist with attacks.

This is not scientific -- I mean, I didn't poll or anything -- but just about everyone was pissed about the missiles being fired into Israel. Then a conversation started about how the whole thing began: Soldiers captured, IDF into Southern Lebanon, Missiles, etc...

For some reason they looked at me to validate the timeline. "When did this begin," they asked.

"1947," I replied, in between bites of meatloaf.

BD said...

Most Americans can't (or won't) make a distinction between Jews in general and Zionists.

I find this comment interesting, and as an American (though non-resident) I understand this sentiment. The problem is that Americans still feel sympathy for the Jew of the Holocaust legacy, not understanding that the Zionists foment a great deal of hatred--hardly qualifying them for sympathy.

Am I reading this correclty?

MN said...

Nativeinformant said it best, I think this is very close to what is happening.

"Most Americans can't (or won't) make a distinction between Jews in general and Zionists"

I have to agree with this and that is a problem, well said.

Matt MacLean said...

In the opening days of the war, Israeli spokesmen and -women had a near-monopoly of the television airwaves (by this I mean guests, not TV anchors). It didn't matter which channel - CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. - the Israeli PR machine was in full swing from the start. Since then this imbalance has been corrected - even the Syrian ambassador, Imad Moustapha, makes regular appearances now. But the American attention span is notoriously short, and the Arab side was too slow to get itself organized. By the time TV networks had struck a balance among their guests, the public's attention had moved on (as Nativeinformant notes, to Mel Gibson and other important matters) and opinions were formed.

bandicoot said...

Opinions are formed and unformed and reformed everyday, as long as people listen to the news on their radio station, watch the networks, read their morning newspaper, or have a political discussion over dinner (and of course think critically and not be afraid to change). I know attention span is too short, but this subject is just not going to go away. Everyday there is something new and once in a while even a dramatic development to recapture people's attention. I believe more people will be asking questions about the unbalanced and flawed US role in the Middle East as the human cost of the war accumulates and as they become more aware of the disastrous failure of the Bush administration in Iraq.

Oliver said...

I'll echo what everyone else has said about the failure to distinguish between "the Israeli people" and Zionists.

Also, the US gov't has been portraying this in the same way as the Iraq invasion: as a "good vs evil" fight against terrorists. Many American people have demonstrated a remarkable Pavlovian reaction to the word "terrorist". They cease questioning and blindly follow whatever they are told.

The Bush admin has no choice but to completely back Israel in their actions, as we the US created the precedent of "shock and awe" overkill. It's often said that children learn violence from watching their parents. Well... We've shown the rest of the world that massively unproportional assault is ok.

Hesham said...

I live in LA and the media here reports almost the same exact news that we see *but* within a very different context...thus the events are are always portrayed as an arab aggression and israeli defence response...always...in an infinite cycle.

But from discussions with people here...it seems a good percentage are oppossed to any violance in the Middle East regardless of wther it is Israeli initiated orotherwise.

Balushi said...

There is Only One solution to all this Crisis is to wipe off Israel along with ourselves and west.



Khallas End of Story.

Al Sinjab said...

Speaking for the 'fifty first state':

If media provides a reflection of public opinion, which is a strong trend amongst the people I talk with, then public opinion here changed dramatically when Canadian-Lebanese were killed. Even the right wing media suddenly became far more critical of Isreal's actions and began its belated indepth coverage of the atrocities in Lebanon.

I was wondering if this was also the case in the US?

bklyn_in_dubai said...

Being from nyc though living in dubai currently for the last two months, what the "american people" say or think is largely irrelevant in the american context. (though rational people will irrationally say "we won't even discuss it", like a university colleague in my sociology
department, or people who, dismissing the facts say yes, but israel acts in self-defense [always] and is a proportionate responder [many friends, father-in-law].

what the government does is what's important obviously, the people are ill-informed [media issues below]. though, the people have largely come around to the idea that the iraq war was a bad idea, but it's like pulling teeth to get any democrat to come out and say that.

in the case of israeli actions in general, there is near unanimous support, a blind, unwavering support, for israel by the govt, media, and the people. this took some 30+ years to develop, and has varied a wee bit (bush the senior did not give them everything they wanted, clinton mildly chastised), but for the most part the americans give israel everything. money (3+ billion a year for arms and economy) and support in the UN.

the israel lobby and pressure groups are a case study in how to get what you want. these harvard fellows published a paper last year that caused an uproar over the idea that AIPAC (american-israeli political action committee) can act like a mafia don -- support israel or else. well, there are hardly any in congress who criticize israel. especially democrats. which is why arabs in the US tend to (used to anyway) vote republican. it was the thin straw of hope. (but that's gone.) its horrifying to me to watch hillary falling all over herself to be ingratiating to the israeli lobby over palestine -- "no peace until terrorism..." blah blah blah. not a word from anyone in the states about the wall, human shields (most commonly used by IDF, but you'd never know that if you watched CNN, forget FoxNews.)

right, the US media. they are also shaped to a large degree by the same forces the govt is, and then further shaped by govt's slants.

watching fox or cnn in the us and watching bbc or cnninternational is like being on two different planets. the media take on events usually dovetail with the official line. so what the people get is the general trope "israel good, arabs bad." most every story gets hung on that line. those letters and articles that dont fit dont get published (i couldnt get a letter to the NYTimes or my local paper NY Newsday published even) or get buried late at nite or deep in the paper. Not first piece, not front page.

i havent been able to watch any us news from here, but have keenly been following the papers on the web. oy. spineless buggers with a few major exceptions (like the washington post's anthony shadid). but you look on the editorial pages, its like they dont read much of their reporters reporting (which the wall street journal never does; great reporting, insane editorial board.)

anyways...

BD said...

bklyn_n_dubai, you present some interesting points. But it seems incredulous that the US public, media, etc. are so gullible--that is to tow the line on Israeli support. The politicians I understand will do anything to win an election--so that explains their reticence to do what is right.

There was a recent LA Times editorial, re-published in the GN, explaining the Jewish lobby. So, obviously there are people there who know what is going on and are willing to call a spade a spade. It's incredible that these voices are so muted.

(In reference to tainted female way up at the top, is it rolling on the floor laughing?)

bklyn_in_dubai said...

bd and others,

incredible, yet true. while yeah, you do get the occasional article or post in a mainstream paper or tv news outlet (incredibly, even on FoxNews on rare occasions), the general tone is one of giving Israel the benefit of doubt way beyond any reasonable expectation. Sure, there is criticism in the more liberal parts of the media (Chomsky, The Nation, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [www.fair.org]), but these very rarely get play in the big outlets.

With the mainstream media, it's not so much a matter of gullibility (though there is that, they are way too reliant on official sources generally) as it is a matter of framing. If you play by the rules, you get by nicely. Criticize too early (think of the demonization of the anti-Iraq war people early on, vs coming to that conclusion now, way too late) and you come under the closest of scrutiny and you get people in power breathing down your neck.

As for the people, well. Yeah, there are some lefties who can be critical, but they are precious few and are concentrated in the usual places. Most people don't scour the international papers to get balance. They read a paper (if at that) and or watch a newchannel/program (if at that). How else do we draw conclusions?

And Israel is the one topic that provokes nonrational responses from a lot of people. I mentioned my colleague (Jewish female). Very liberal on most issues, but when I deigned to criticize Israel (well before all of this) she smiled patronizingly and said we'll just have to agree to disagree. My father-in-law's friend, a staunch Bill O'Reilly fan (their numbers increase daily) dismissed a long critical email I sent as "impassioned, and that's the problem." Huh? The point being, that any criticism of Israel is wacky, cuz theyre our allies in the war against terrorism.

As for calling a spade a spade, I really don't think you'll find that many people doing that regarding Israel in the US. Except for many US Muslims who then put their foot in their mouths by spouting neo-Naziesque rhetoric which destroys any moral basis of their arguments.

Seabee said...

Here's a piece quoting research figures, and some background, filed by Tom Baldwin in Washington on August 5:

ISRAEL'S military campaign in southern Lebanon is still being backed by most American voters, according to a survey published on Thursday that shows public opinion in the US once again sharply at odds with views in Europe.
The Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll found 59per cent believe Israel's actions are "justified", although a quarter of this group stated that the military had behaved in an "excessively harsh" fashion.
In contrast, a recent YouGov-Daily Telegraph poll in Britain showed that only 17 per cent of those surveyed believe that Israel has made an "appropriate and proportional" response to the kidnapping of its soldiers.
A Forsa/Stern poll has shown that 75per cent of Germans believe Israel's actions are "disproportionate" and only 12 per cent approve of the attacks on Palestinian or Lebanese settlements.
Such a division across the Atlantic in Western public opinion is similar to that which opened up over whether there should be an invasion of Iraq.
This is, in part, a reflection of the more aggressive stance adopted by American voters after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks...
...support for Israel, which extends to billions of dollars in military aid, has deeper roots within US politics, where there is a long-established and influential Jewish lobby.
This emphasises Israel's post-Holocaust origins, its staunch support for the US during the Cold War and its role as a democracy in a region prone to dictatorship and extremism.
The bipartisan pro-Israel lobby has, in recent years, been further strengthened by the fervour of millions of right-wing evangelical Christians...


The full story is here

Tim Newman said...

As I said on the previous thread, I have a hard time believing that the Israeli lobby in the US wins so many people to their cause simply because their audience is too thick or lazy to access the facts and come to a different - and of course the correct - conclusion.

Even the dumbest Alabama redneck is going to be fully aware that the current president of Iran has publicly and repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel of the map, and has also issued several dire warnings to the USA - amid much flag burning and Death-to-America chanting. They will also be fully aware that the same organisation which murdered 3000 US citizens on September 11th are also calling for the complete destruction of Israel and Jews worldwide.

Stuff like this makes the job of the Israeli lobby very easy, as it makes even the most ruthless hawks in Israel look like moderates. Israel's greatest leverage in the US has always been the threats to its existence - threats which have been negligible between 1973 and today - but with Iran chasing nuclear weapons and shouting that it intends to use them wipe Israel of the map, and arming Hezbollah who are also chasing the same goal of completely destroying Israel as a state, the existential threat to Israel has reared its head once again and massively strengthened the hand of the US Israeli lobby.

A first step along the long road to reducing US support for Israel is to end once and for all the rejection of its existence, and this must be applied to all parties in the Middle East. Unless and until this occurs, US support for Israel will continue at current levels indefinitely.

nativeinformant said...

And Israel is the one topic that provokes nonrational responses from a lot of people.

so true! I can't tell you how many professors and fellow grad students (who should be more critical) refuse to consider Israel critically at all.

Except for many US Muslims who then put their foot in their mouths by spouting neo-Naziesque rhetoric which destroys any moral basis of their arguments.

also very apt. I think this goes back to what I said before about Americans refusing to distinguish between Jews and Zionists. Anti-Israeli rallies I have been to in the states often verge on anti-Semitic, and that is where I get very uncomfortable and leave.

I think this American tendency to treat groups as homogeneous is a huge part of the problem. I am always astounded when I go abroad at the amount of real dialog I have with people about the differences between Americans and their govt. Sure, I get some ignorant comments but for the most part people are interested in my views of America as an American. Meanwhile, when I tell US people I am researching in Dubai, I get horrific comments about learning how to say "don't kill me" in Arabic, being careful I don't get abducted by an Arab man, etc, etc.

One thing I also want to throw in which I find very interesting here is that Indian Americans (mostly Hindus) have a tendency to be very pro-Israel as well, citing their "no nonsense" approach to "terrorism" as a good example for the Indian govt to follow. I find this extremely scary given the Hindu fundy climate in Indian politics.

BD said...

Indian Americans (mostly Hindus) have a tendency to be very pro-Israel as well, citing their "no nonsense" approach to "terrorism" as a good example for the Indian govt to follow

I've heard this from Indian-Indians too. It shows that people often view events in the world from the narrow perspective of what it means for them. The point Tim makes about Americans' concerns when they hear of threats against Israel's existence leads me to ask, "What about, not threats, but the actual ongoing destruction of Lebanon? Does this not warrant sympathy as well?"

What there is in America is a deep-seated bias--one that as some have pointed out has only been exasperated since 9/11. American attitudes are truly part of the 9/11 legacy. But for their own sake, it's time for Americans to wake up from that. I don't know how much longer America as a nation can continue to put itself in a position of being scorned by the rest of the world. It will eventually catch up with America--economically, socially, politically, at all levels.

John B. Chilton said...

The figures Seabee quotes on American sentiments fits with my own nonrandom sample from the people I encounter. More than half believe Israel is acting in self defense, although some of those think Israel has used excessive force.

However, I also encounter a substantial minority of white Americans who believe Israel's behavior is wrong with respect to the Palestinians and with respect to its current actions in Lebanon. Of those I have encountered in this camp all are from left and far left.

Sticking with those I encounter in person I don't see evidence of what NativeInformant had in mind when she/he wrote, Most Americans can't (or won't) make a distinction between Jews in general and Zionists, and therefore anything anti-Israeli becomes anti-semitic. (Indeed, while I am capable of distinguishing between Jews and Zionists I am not even sure what NI's statement means. NI's later comment just above seems to clarify some, but I'm still not sure of the meaning.) You can criticize Israel without being labeled anti-semitic -- at least in the circles I travel in. (Perhaps NI means most people who criticize Israel are or become anti-semitic?)

Regarding the Gibson distraction I note that while NI sees it as undercutting the potential for open expression of doubts about Israel's stance and actions there are those on the other side who wonder how the public can devote more energy to the threat of Mel Gibson than to threat of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Tim Newman said...

"What about, not threats, but the actual ongoing destruction of Lebanon? Does this not warrant sympathy as well?"

Lebanon's existence is not being threatened by the current Israeli actions. There will still be state called Lebanon, albeit a bombed one, and it will still be filled with Lebanese for the foreseeable future.

In the case of Israel, its very existence has been threatened, and is looking likely to be threatened again within the decade. Should Israel cease to exist as a state, there would not be a Jew left alive in the Middle East.

Most American, and indeed European, politicians appreciate this difference.

bklyn_in_dubai said...

Regarding the idea of the threat to Israel's existence... Really. There is no Arab state or combination of Arab states that pose any real threat to Israel's existence. They have a nuclear arsenal, they have the most advanced military technology (and low tech stuff like cluster bombs which they use).

Maybe some of the militaries and pseudo miltaries in the region can do a bit of damage, but they will get it back 100 fold. The IDF doesn't hold back, no matter what the official Israeli/US/CNN/Fox line may be. And as for Lebanon's existence being threatened, well, they may still have the invisible lines that constitute borders, but there ain't gonna be much left cuz the Israelis don't look like they're even close to being done.

As for not separating out Jews from Israel, it works well in American politics, to the advantage of the pro-Israel lobby. You can shut people up -- if you say anything critical of Israel you're an anti-Semite; if you're critical and Jewish, you're a self-hating Jew. It's amazing how this plays out in New York state. See how Hillary talks about the region. She is petrified of pissing these people off. Whether someone in Alabama can make the distinction between a Jew and a Zionist... doesn't matter. If the Christian fundos believe this will hasten the Rapture, this alliance with Israel, well... We in America generally have an amazing ability to swallow tales our leaders tell (was it here that I saw that poll that said half of americans still believe there's WMD in Iraq?)

Whether Americans will become more critical of Israel in the future, if gambling were legal here I'd bet big bucks that no way. Especially you put the label of terrorist on Hamas and Hizbollah and whoever else (the Palestinian Authority was basically treated as a terrorist org by the US).

Which bring my last as for point. Hindus in US as per nativeinformant. The pro-Israel stance goes hand in hand with a tremendous rise in popularity of the BJP/VHP in both India and the US since the late 80s, and especially since the Babri Masjid was torn down in 92. These guys are not mere right wingers, they're fascists who'd like nothing more than the complete subjugation and or murder of the mass of Muslims and Christians in India. Since the idea of terrorism has been completely conflated with Muslims, it's a brilliant opportunity for them, as well as for Israel, to further crush their enemies. And in the US, their supporters aren't riffraff, they're professionals, business people, etc.

And thanks seabee for washpost article! It just makes it really clear how the american view of reality bears little relation to what the rest of the world sees.

Tim Newman said...

Regarding the idea of the threat to Israel's existence... Really. There is no Arab state or combination of Arab states that pose any real threat to Israel's existence.

Nobody is suggesting there is. But Iran is making all the signs that it is actively seeking nuclear weapons at the same time it is repeatedly threatening to drop one on Tel Aviv should it get the opportunity, and has stated clearly that it wishes to elimiate Israel as state.

nativeinformant said...

John,

What I meant in my comments was that most Americans think that criticizing Israel amounts to criticizing Jews in general, or they are afraid that this is how it will be perceived. I think race and location plays a part in this too. The Jewish experience in the US is mainly portrayed as a white European one, therefore the Holocaust becomes the single defining moment of Jewish identity, at the expense of us learning about the experiences of Arab and other non-white Jews, and Jews that did not experience the Holocaust or have never lived in the West.

I hope that is some clarification

blogrosh said...

bklyn_in_dubai : You've captured the Jewish and Israeli stronghold on this country pretty well. As a UAEian, living in NYC for the past 6 years, I am stunned by the blind support for Israel and Jews, especially here in NYC.

Since the war broke out in Lebanon, these organizations have bought several billboards from media companies (mostly controlled by Jews themselves) and have pro Jewish & Israeli slogans, pictures, signage, Israeli flags etc all over NYC.

From subways to the streets of NYC - almost daily, I have AIPAC, Jesus for Jews and other Jewish/Pro Israeli organizations thrusting down our throats requesting "mandatory" blind support for Israel via all outlets available. However, not one - NOT ONE - pro Lebanese slogan or a flag - nothing –Zero!


These days, as I walk to work in Manhattan, I am often confused, if I am in NYC or Israel? Moreover, although I am starting to feel there is a debate, slowly creeping amongst my common American friends on the actual intentions of Israel and are critical of Israel, given the death & destruction on Lebanon - most of them are sort of wary to speak up, fearing some sort of "anti-Semite" backlash.
I remember earlier this year when the Dubai Ports issue came up. I was amazed how Charles Schumer (who is Jewish) went ballistic over Dubai being "terrorists" and GWB was handing over American ports to terrorist countries who do not support or recognize Israel? Of course, self centered Hillary happily joined the chorus - and at the same time she choose to IGNORE, her husband's close ties to the UAE and all the positive stuff he had been talking about Dubai here in the US and worldwide? Hillary was bloody fearful of saying anything critical of Israel, even though she knows too well Israel is at fault.

I am glad, there are Americans out there, even if it's just two at the moment (BD & yourself) who are encouraging a debate amongst your fellow citizens. I hope someday, the Muslims & Jews peacefully co-exist, and Americans help them to do so.

As for Indians, I agree with you 101%. I am half Indian myself, a Christian, born/raised in the UAE. The Hindu Indians I know of in the US is using Israel v/s Arabs to their advantage to defame all Muslims – of course their main target is Pakistan and its citizens. Hence they join the bandwagon to "support" Israel, of course with a hidden agenda.

BD said...

I would suggest that there is one segment of the American population that does not and will not tow the line on Israel--that is the black-American community. This is significant because black-Americans are largely Christian and have their share of "born-again" Bible-thumping proponents. But perhaps from their historical perspective of having been the downtrodden in the "new world" for so long, the have an appreciation for the suffering of Islamic communities at the hands of Western--and as we see so often--mostly American bigotry.

Even post 9/11 these Americans have not jumped on the bandwagon to imply that Arab (or Muslim)=terrorist. At the same time they have no anti-Israel agenda. Go to any traditional African American church and listen to the hymns which honor the legacy of Israel. This community on balance, I would say, look at these people, Muslim, Arab or Jew, and see their suffering wherever it is and whatever the cause.

I wish more Americans could follow this example.

elboroom said...

"Which bring my last as for point. Hindus in US as per nativeinformant. The pro-Israel stance goes hand in hand with a tremendous rise in popularity of the BJP/VHP....These guys are not mere right wingers, they're fascists who'd like nothing more than the complete subjugation and or murder of the mass of Muslims and Christians in India...And in the US, their supporters aren't riffraff, they're professionals, business people, etc."

So basically, what you are saying, bklyn, is that Indian professionals living in the US (MOSTLY--but not all, Hindus) who support Israel's actions are, let's see, "...fascists who'd like nothing more than the complete subjugation and or murder of the mass of Muslims and Christians in India..."

Wow that is nice, very subtle, too. Do you know it does wonders for your credibility as a commentator on this blog? As a Christian from India, I suppose I should be scared. Very scared. Funny, not many members of my community seem to be. Indeed, we're not even yelling "Conspiracy! Conspiracy! The whole world is out to get us!"

This must all be George Bush's fault. As every Indian knows, there's nothing like having an organisation like Hezbollah to take care of your interests, especially when your own country's army can't (or wont--for lack of instructions) do the job. Imagine the number of fights we could have picked with Pakistan by now. Pity we don't have a Hezbollah of our own to help us out there.

Oh, and while on the subject, I must pay my respects to the Americans living here in the ME, who clearly tell us that the media in America has taken the whole gullible population of their country for one big ride...and the only ones who escaped the brainwashing is they themselves, who (as amazing as it may seem) are remarkably well informed. On account of the fact that they live here. So where do they get it all? Gulf News? KT? Al Jazeera?

Not gullible in the least. No, sir.

Tim Newman said...

Well said, elboroom.

BD said...

the media in America has taken the whole gullible population of their country for one big ride

Not only the media, but the politicians too--especially the politicians. This is not being said only by us--non-resident Americans--but also by some in the US. We're not saying, however, that all Americans are gullible or mis-informed, but certainly a large percentage are. We also recognize that this is in part a result of 9/11 which no doubt traumatised a lot of Americans and allowed the politicians to use the threat of "terroism" as a tool to achieve their various agendae.

the only ones who escaped the brainwashing is they themselves, who (as amazing as it may seem) are remarkably well informed

We, if I may speak for myself and other overseas Americans, will clearly have a broader perspective based on the fact of having lived both within and outside of the US. Contrast this with anyone who will not have had this opportunity. It isn't to suggest that we are better or more intellegent. It is simply a matter of exposure. We have a wider variety of reference points; not only Gulf News and the sentiments of the local media and local population, but also that of the mainstream US media and population for having been in that setting too.

Your implication that we are trying to say Americans are stupid but we, expat Americans, are not is wrong. We simply are able to view things from a broader perspective--as too are a minortiy of States-side Americans, who for whatever reasons are well-informed and, as I have suggested in the case of African Americans, less easily swayed by the post-9/11 rhetoric.

rafael said...

You elboroom are trying to say that extreme right wing Indians are not fascists? I don't know what you think? No they’re peace loving vegetarian monks! I saw many of these people when I was in America and yes they are scary ignorant bigots.Tthey say things like if they have the chance they will go and burn down the babri mosque all over again and that all Indian Muslims must go to Pakistan. Their love for Israel is like what bklyn said a marriage of convenience with all the terrorism phobia. Well, it fits them very well because Israel is filled with fascists just like them. And about Hizbollah, you know or may be you don’t they only existed because of Israeli wars against Lebanon. If Israel didn't stay in Lebanon you will not have Hizbollah. And if it gives back the Palestinians their land and their freedom there will not be terrorism or violence. But Israel refuses to understand this simple fact and may be also you. And not only that, but you're throwing some ignorant statement about American public opinion and about what some Americans are saying on this post. Before you "pay respect" to them, show some understanding first of what they write and don't put in their mouths things they didn't say.

elboroom said...

BD, thanks for the clarification, and rafael, thanks for your viewpoint.

It may also be pertinent to mention, in this context, that bklyn's reference was not to "extreme right wing Hindus", but to "Indian Americans, mostly Hindu, tend(ing) to be very pro-Israel...". While I accept your inputs, I cannot limit my understanding of the issue to your own personal experiences with a few specific individuals. I will have to wait a while longer, and receive more (reliable) information before I brand all Indian Americans, mostly Hindu, as being fascists who are eager to support the annihilation of the entire mass of Christians and Muslims in India. Even though Christians in India are a small minority, wiping them out would be a fairly massive undertaking, hence the lack of paranoia within the community itself. Not only do we not expect it to happen, we do not see any major effort towards that end that is worthy of note or concern. Indeed, eliminating both Christian and Muslim communities would require the annihilation of approximately 200 million individuals. A little bit tricky to carry out, I would imagine.

This is not to say that Muslims and Christians in India have no concerns at all with regard to the safety and security of the members of their communities. The recent state-government sponsored attacks on Muslims in Gujarat are a case in point. However, this sort of thing is totally unacceptable to most Indians, including Hindus. Very few (in terms of the overall population) actually support such things. Additionally, legal measures are available and plenty of organisations exist to take up the case on behalf of victims. Most people have a democratic mindset and wouldn't dream of telling Muslims to go back to Pakistan (they can't anyway; they didn't come from there in the first place.) Right wing Hindu political parties such as the BJP and VHP do have military cadres that are a source of nuisance and tension to minority communities. The RSS, for instance, has a large corps of trained and organised cadets who can attack Christian or Muslim groups or functions. It has happened quite a few times. These fighters are trained in some type of martial art as well as the use of batons. Carrying other types of weaponry, as well as the stockpiling of missiles and rocket-launchers, would be illegal, unlike the situation in Lebanon.

Based on the country's democratic history over the past 50 years or so, very few Indians, Hindus included, would find it acceptable if the RSS were to launch an attack on China, for example, on the grounds that they are holding a bit of our land. We have policy makers to take that decision and an official military apparatus to carry it out if needed. The RSS would be laughed out of business if they were to try something so idiotic and foolhardy (so to speak: the fact is, they can't even think about it, leave alone try it.)

This would help explain the Indian-American and Indian-Indian stance on the current Lebanon situation. It is simply a matter of what type of behaviour provokes a situation and whether such unofficial activities unilaterally undertaken by private parties that lead to massive consequences for the country would be considered acceptable by the general population.

It does not automatically condone the nature or scale of the Israeli approach or imply some anti-Muslim sentiment among Indians. The killing of civilians and innocents is unacceptable and reprehensible. Period. Whoever does it. Whether the IDF or the Hezbollah. It's not about who does it, it's not about what their religion is. Indians are able to make the distinction where necessary (speaking generally).

The fact that India may take Israeli military help does not make it anti-Muslim. Sri Lanka has been known to have received the same type of help in dealing with the Tamil Tigers; this does not make them anti-Muslim. Indians view these alliances as being military necessities, not an expression of religious sentiment.

I hope this is of some help, especially as BD often seeks to understand how various communities think.

bklyn_in_dubai said...

elboroom,

i apologize for not being clearer. I conflated the naked fascistic actions of the bjp/vhp/rss in india with the support of the same by a large number of Hindus in the US (not all by any means), who are actively courted by the bjp/vhp/rss.

its the bjp/vhp/rss who are the fascists in india who are doing the dirty work of genocide. the bjp and vhp are very active in the US with fundraising, sponsoring of youth programs, esp the vhp which started hindu students assns on university campuses, though now many chapters are showing autonomy from the vhp.

The actions and influence of the bjp/vhp/rss have had a very discernable impact upon discourse within the indian and hindu communities, shifting ideology in a clearly rightward direction, though there is a committed secular base of people who do everything they can to counter this (and a very large number of people who know nothing or don't care). A very large number of professionals and students (not all) sympathise with the aims of the bjp/vhp/rss program of a Hindu nation, and they fund the vhp to a great extent. (So in that sense, they get to be fascists without blood directly on their hands.) In the past few years, if you go to talks on college campuses critical of say the gujarat pogrom, you get right-wing Hindu activists showing up to disrupt them (I've seen and had encounters with many of these guys at Columbia and Hunter College in NYC).

As for Christians in India being scared/not scared, these guys have made it quite clear that Christians are on their list. Muslims are still #1, but burning of missionaries in Orissa is quite a signal sent.

Your take on the bjp/rss activities is puzzling. Communalism is not a series of isolated incidents, but is planned out at the highest levels of politicians and police. they are part of a large-scale pogram, not the spontaneous eruption of mob sentiment. And yes, it would take quite an undertaking to kill 200 million. The point isnt to kill them all off, but to force them to accede to a notion that India is a Hindu nation, and everyone else is a second-class citizen. As for legal measures to redress communal incidents... CM Modi of Gujarat has not been charged, Shiv Sena's Bal Thackeray has not been charged, none of the Congress MPs who have been eyewitness-fingered for the slaughter of Sikhs in 84 have been charged, none of the BJP/vhp/rss guys responsible for the thousands slaughtered after Babri in 92 have been charged... I can go on down the list. And it's not that it's unacceptable to the vast number of Hindus, the point is that it is becoming MORE acceptable to middle class and professional Hindus over the years, esp since Babri that is frightening.

And as for where I am geographically, being in the ME does me nothing one way or the other. I read papers and mags from all over the world, always have. I don't use Gulf News or Khaleej T as my barometer. That would be the same as relying on the NY Post or Jerusalem Post.

And your analogy hizb:lebanon::rss:india doesn't hold. Lebanon is a weak and destroyed state nominally independent since 2000, India is a strong state. The RSS is not concerned with China except as it helps their program of nationalism; their main concern is wearing khakhi shorts and hats and killing Muslims and other minorities.

Seabee said...

But Iran is making all the signs that it is actively seeking nuclear weapons at the same time it is repeatedly threatening to drop one on Tel Aviv should it get the opportunity, and has stated clearly that it wishes to elimiate Israel as state.

Tim, you don't honestly believe that he's doing anything more than playing to the gallery do you?

You can't really think that if Iran had nuclear weapons they'd rain them down on a region populated mainly by Muslims.

Tim Newman said...

Tim, you don't honestly believe that he's doing anything more than playing to the gallery do you?

I don't know, and nor could I possibly know. But I do not think he should be given the benefit of the doubt, and his threats should be taken as though he fully intends to carry them out.

Of course, it's easy to dismiss hs threats as "playing to the gallery" when you are not sat in Israel and gambling your very existence on him not being serious, and I can understand why the Israelis are not prepared to dismiss as rhetoric the threats of a man who has a genuine desire to exterminate Jews: they have been here before, remember?

Tim Newman said...

You can't really think that if Iran had nuclear weapons they'd rain them down on a region populated mainly by Muslims.

Iran has no concern for the Palestinians and its neighbours whatsoever beyond their use in achieving their stated goal of destroying Israel. If Iran could capture the leadership of the Muslim world by destroying Israel at the cost of any future Palestinian state, they may not hesitate over the fate of either.

rafael said...

"I can understand why the Israelis are not prepared to dismiss as rhetoric the threats of a man who has a genuine desire to exterminate Jews: they have been here before, remember?"

Tim newman how do you so well understand the Israel "existential" paranoia? Are you Israeli or zionist jew? that's ok, it doesn't matter what you are but you don't appear you have any apprecaition of the fear of other people in the middle east. Do you know anythiong about the fear and sufferingof other people? or only jewish fear legitimate and o=everybody else go to hell? Other nations have existential fear too; Lebanese and palestinias and irnainas and everybody, especially knowing Israel is a nuclear state and America is making the area a war zone. Israel use this existentail bullshit to continue its hegemony plans on the area and crush anybody who fight back. Israel almost droppedd a nuclear bomb on syria in 1973, right? why? because syria was almost defeating israel and liberating the golan. Israel is the snake. it doesn't have to scream like stupid ahmadinajad about exterminating Arabs but it's always doing that anyway. it is righ tnow exterminating lebanese civilians and destrotying their country completly. Israel does not want peace and the fanatic government there will create more fanatics and terrorists on the other side and everybody will pay heavy price and may be even a nuclear war. nobody believe this existentail bullshit about Isrel, it is military power number 3 in the world nad has 200 nuclera bombs. But you believe it like religion?

BD said...

The thing that gets to me--and we see it here in some of the comments--is that concern is expressed about this or that threat to Israel, but what is going on in Lebanon isn't a threat. It is something already happening. It is a reality; it is the here and now; and it is very tragic--for a nation, for the 1 million of that nation who have been displaced, for the over 1000 who have lost their lives, and so on.

So, while on the one side the likes of President Bush talks about the threats posed by Syria and Iran the situation in Lebanon is the actualization of the very thing the fools in the choir are harping about as a potential danger.

So, you have a raging inferno in one building and in the buiding beside it you have a number of fire hazzards. What do you do? You ignore the blazing inferno while getting all worked up over the fire hazzards next door. And why do you do this? Because you value the building with the fire hazzards while you couldn't care less about the one already on fire.

Washington doesn't give a hoot about Lebanon, the Lebanese people, the Arab communities, etc. It cares only about "its own"--which is what Israel has become.

I have to add that I realize now what explains in part the unwavering support Americans provide Israel. The Israeilis are seen from the American perspective to be so much "like us." They live in nice suburban homes, they go to shopping malls and discos, they wear jeans and halter tops, etc. Tel Aviv in the minds of most Americans has a USA zip code. Contrast that with the image an Arab country conjures. They are simply "not like us." We can't relate to them. They belong to a different place and time. Do we hate them because they're different. No, of course not--we're Christians. But while the Arabs may be our neighbors, whom we should love, the Israelis--well, they are us.

I have to believe that this is part of what is going on in the consciousness of Americans. This is why to not support Israel is almost unthinkable.

blogrosh said...

Well said BD, this is ALL that I have been hearing "Israel is under a threat, hence is "defending" itself? However what drives me over the edge, is the fact that most Americans actually believe Israel is being daily bombarded for NO reason - hence US should help Israel remove all Arabs for a better tomorrow.

I am sure a change in American attitude towards Israel, will come someday - whenever that might be?

Seabee said...

BD, very true.
I've just done an illuminating exercise on it for a friend in Australia who said much what you're suggesting. He insisted that Tel Aviv and Beirut are completely unlike each other, their people are also totally different. It's the mindset you're talking about - the 'them' and 'us' syndrome.

I tried to point out that they're actually very, very similar.
Finally I put a Powerpoint presentation together of photographs I sourced on the net of street scenes from the two cities.
The fact is you can't tell one from the other.

Tim
Iran has no concern for the Palestinians and its neighbours whatsoever beyond their use in achieving their stated goal of destroying Israel. If Iran could capture the leadership of the Muslim world by destroying Israel at the cost of any future Palestinian state, they may not hesitate over the fate of either.
Look at a map Tim and see how many Arabs/Muslims the fallout from nuclear weapons on Israel would destroy. And in your mind that would give them the leadership of the Muslim world? Of course he's playing to the gallery.

nativeinformant said...

IO posted about this on my blog today, but Covering Islam by Edward Said is a really great book about the portrayal of the Middle east by US media. Very accessible and good intro material for the history of US representations of the region.

BD said...

^^^Will have to check out the book you reference.

Unfortunately, the current airplane terror scare in the UK and US will once again harden views and close minds to the notion that terrorism need not be equated with one religion or one group of people. The them/us perception is once again reenforced.

Great surprise I think is the reaction an American will typically have if presented real images of Dubai and the UAE. You mean, they have shopping malls and freeways, too! But all they need is to see images of the black and white, male and female traditional dress, to be re-asssured once again that they are not like us.

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