Nov 12, 2012

Green party's Jill Stein on the 'slave-like mentality toward Israel'

Green Party's Jill Stein taking part in third-party debate

During the US presidential campaign the media was so preoccupied with the two-party race, contenders who represented third-party platforms were too often neglected. This is unfortunate because alternative voices can bring an objectivity to debates that is often lacking in the two-party arena.

During Democracy Now's excellent "Expanding the Debate" series third-party candidates had a chance to lay out key aspects of their program. In the course of a discussion that touched on foreign policy issues Jill Stein of the Green Party, described the major-party candidates as having a "slave-like mentality" toward Israel.

In reference to the positions of the main parties, Stein said:

And here again, we’re seeing the candidates very similar to each other. They’re both saber-rattling about Iran. They’re both vowing their obedience to the right-wing government in Israel. And they are both saying that they will stop at nothing, but that war will be the last result. So, once again, we’re seeing shades of gray here between the Democratic and Republican candidates, but we’re not seeing what the American people really need and what international security really needs.

In fact, Iran recently hosted the non-aligned nations. It’s not just Iran. It was all the non-aligned nations with them—Brazil and Argentina and many others—that together put forward a proposal for eliminating nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East and, in fact, eliminating nuclear weapons throughout the world. That is the true solution that we should be getting behind. And in fact, I should add that—

This slave-like mentality toward Israel is absolutely unjustified... We need to start raising the bar for Israel and holding them to an equal standard for supporting human rights and international law, and ending occupations and illegal settlements and apartheid. 

The clarity Stein brings to the thorny issue of America and its relationship with Israel speaks truth to power. There is reason to believe her views will find an increasingly sympathetic hearing.

Despite Netanyahu's meddling in the course of the US election and his thinly disguised support for a Romney win, 70% of the American Jewish vote went Democrat. Jewish voters placed a higher priority on American domestic issues than priorities associated with Israel. Even Sheldon Adelson's millions weren't able to alter the outcome.

Jill Stein - who happens to be Jewish - brings both candor and moral credibility to her assessment of Israel vis-a-vis its relationship with the US. Her priorities stress international law and the importance of "holding Israel to an equal standard" on human rights. This is the honorable position and one Obama should take heed of.

In the course of the debate Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party referred to the lie that has acquired massive traction in the media - namely the false claim that Iranian president Ahmadinejad said he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map." This is a willful distortion of what Ahmadinejad actually said in his native Farsi. The wildfire spread of the loaded English version speaks volumes about the lengths some people are prepared to go in order to demonize Iran as an existential threat to Israel.

Ahmadinejad said this in Farsi: ”Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.” The reference isn't to Israel proper, but rather to Zionism. The words by the way are not original to Ahmadinejad, rather it is a reference to a statement made by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

The word-by-word translation reads:

Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from). 

It is a falsehood to report this as Ahmadinajad declaring 'Israel must be wiped off the map.' There is no mention of Israel, much less of a map.

Ahmadinejad isn't exactly out on a limb with his criticisms of Zionism. Zionism is arguably a problem not just for Iran, but for Israel itself. A Jewish writer - the freelance journalist and novelist, Ben Ehrenreich - penned a powerful op-ed piece titled "Zionism is the Problem" that is well worth the read.

The results of the US election bode well for the future when it comes to progressive third-party representation. The reactionary white vote the Republicans were always able to depend on came up short. Changing demographics and the endorsement of more progressive positions indicate that American priorities are changing. In the future lets hope this will also include a needed sea change in the priorities that govern the relationship with Israel.

The video includes a segment of the debate in which Jill Stein gives her views on Israel: