By Paul Findley
November 13, 2006
A few words of introduction. I am 85, conscious of the march of years. I say, "Oh, to be 70 again!" I am on no one’s payroll. I speak only for myself. I am a Christian, but my words arise from years of devotion to justice for Muslims. I speak plain language, because this is no time to tiptoe around the truth. Our policy in the Middle East is wrong - morally, militarily, politically, and legally. It is biased against Arabs and Muslims and in favor of the State of Israel. It is worse today than ever before.
The massive aid we keep sending has long helped Israel to inflict lethal degradation on mostly-Muslim Palestinians. We are silent when Israel makes Gaza a vast, miserable and bloody concentration camp where l.4 million human beings are denied electricity, clean water, housing, food, and medical care. We look the other way when Israel arrests officials of Palestine’s freely-elected government.
Our Congress approves when Israel herds the rest of the Palestinians like cattle behind high walls and fences. Every U.S. president beginning with Lyndon B. Johnson could have stopped Israel’s major crimes, simply by suspending all U.S. aid until Israel behaved. Every Congress could have done the same. But none did. The only U.S. President to stand resolutely against Israel’s criminal behavior was Dwight D. Eisenhower. Israel’s influence has led America into one awful mess after another.
As the world knows, Washington was the essential enabler in 1982 when Israeli forces killed 18,000 Arab civilians in Lebanon, a massacre that prompted payback 21 years later in the ugly form of 9/11. With congressional support, President Bush brandishes the sword of war as his primary instrument of foreign policy. He initiated wars against Muslim Afghanistan and Muslim Iraq, helped Israel plan and execute the war in Muslim Lebanon, and now threatens war against Muslim Syria and Muslim Iran -- each calamity a by-product of our long complicity with Israel. For nearly 40 years our government has failed to take even the first firm step toward cutting loose from Israel’s crimes.
President Bush says he wants an independent Palestine, but all his deeds are destructive. Now, after helping Israel bomb much of Lebanon into a pile of bloody rubble this summer, Washington is frantically trying to bring about a durable ceasefire between the two states. In cosmic language, Bush likens his acts of war to the battle against Nazism in World War II. He is wrong.
Americans were united in fighting Nazism, because Nazism was evil. Americans are not united behind Bush because his wars leave untouched the major, basic cause of terrorism and Middle East conflict - Israel’s U.S.-supported conquest and occupation of Palestine. How has Israel, a small nation of six million, succeeded in manipulating the policies of this once great nation of 300 million people? The answers can be summed up in one word: Fear. Fear of Islam, although totally unwarranted, is widespread.
A recent Cornell University survey determined that 44 percent of the American people want the civil liberties of all U.S. Muslims restricted. With nearly one- half of all Americans afraid of all Muslims, no wonder our politicians are easy prey when Israel’s lobby warns that Israel is surrounded by terrorist followers of Islam. An even heavier burden to our national well-being is the deep-seated, nearly-universal fear of Israel’s lobby and its demonstrated skill at making reckless charges of anti-Semitism.
The lobby has succeeded in redefining anti-Semitism to cover even the mildest criticism of Israeli behavior. The result is that most Americans recoil from criticizing Israel like the kiss of death and fear hovers over officials in Washington like a host of helicopter gunships. Accordingly, our government is shamelessly complicit in Israel’s criminal conduct.
The televised and printed words of two brave professors, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University, who speak candidly about Israel’s harm to U.S. national interests, are the rare exceptions. Much of the world now sees both Israel and the United States as terrorist states. Our complicity in Israeli crimes is the root cause of most of America’s troubles today. We can never be truly secure until we end our support of these crimes, nor can Israelis feel secure until Palestinians feel secure in their own independent state.
History shows that suicide bombings will stop as soon as unwelcome foreign troops leave; so we must leave Iraq and we must press Israel to leave occupied Palestine. Even before 9/11, many Americans viewed Muslims wrongly as radicals who abuse women, oppose our system of government, condone terrorism, and worship a strange, vengeful deity. These false images are more prevalent today than ever before. There is a vital way in which each of you can help correct the false images of Islam.
Many misguided Americans believe Islam is a dangerous enemy. Therefore, all of us must help spread the truth, no matter what our religious faith may be. On the eve of 9/11, I wrote a book titled Silent No More: Confronting America’s False Images of Islam. Its appendix A is a brief statement about Islam called, "A friendly note from your Muslim neighbor." I urge you to make copies of this short statement and distribute them in the days and weeks ahead.
I also urge you to talk publicly and candidly about Israel’s role in our society. Here are the four steps I ask each of you to take: 1. Be a committee-of-one to correct false statements about Islam. Demand corrections when you hear or see anything in the media that wrongs Islam. 2. Be an ambassador of goodwill for Islam. Display your religion in your attire. A ring, a necklace, a lapel pin will give everyone you meet a reason to dismiss the false images of Islam.
Pass out copies of the "friendly note." 3. [For non-Muslims] Go to church every Sunday. After church, offer to meet with church organizations to answer questions about Islam. 4. Take part in mainstream politics. Attend political meetings and demand clear answers from candidates. Are you asking yourself, "Is he asking me to do all this?" Indeed I am. Everyone must help, men and women. You must be a self-starter. You must not leave these tasks to others. The stakes are too high to take chances. Defend Islam. Do it for your children. Do it for your country.
Paul Findley is a former U.S. congressman and lifelong advocate for better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. This article is based on a talk given on Sept. 3, 2006 at the ISNA Conference; it was edited and abridged for the Friday Magazine.