The Rotary Club of Milwaukee partnered with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation to bring Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, to the Milwaukee County War Memorial on June 5 as a keynote speaker. The event sparked local controversy over Israeli policy and also disrespected the purpose of the site that honored war dead, by welcoming a leader with a documented position that fomented war.
There has been a regional increase of violence directly related to the Trump Administration’s policy that moved the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinian civilians in Gaza have been fatally targeted by the Israeli military during peaceful protests. Israel and Iran are, by some reports, already in a state of war as a low intensity conflict.
Ron Dermer was appointed by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and began serving in 2013. His message to the Milwaukee Rotarians on June 5 supported the extremest policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and was greeted with warm support from the crowd. The Israel-Palestine issue is long and complicated, but the conflict continues to claim lives and exert a global economic cost that reaches all the way back to Wisconsin.
Ambassador Dermer spent most of his speech positioning Israel as a champion for American interests or framing it as a victim, while sidestepping recent violence directed at Palestinians. A question from Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, asked why Israel had refused to grant himself and other members of congress entry to see conditions on the ground for themselves. Ambassador Dermer’s answer shifted between blaming the American government for the denial of access while claiming security issues in Israeli involving safety concerns.
Outside the Milwaukee County War Memorial, several dozen local residents of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds protested the Ambassador’s visit. June 5 marked the 51st anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. It is one of the only remaining occupations in modern times. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Apartheid rules that control their movement, their ability to work and farm their land. The policy also affects their ability to live in peace.
One of the groups that spoke out about the Ambassador’s visit was Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group that is opposed to anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry. The organization seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.
Samir Moukaddam, a Lebanese-American and progressive advocate for Palestinian rights offered insight to help explain the situation in Israeli and its relationship to Milwaukee.
If we simply stated the facts and that was enough to convince people, we would have had a free Palestine a long time ago. In Milwaukee, if we looked at the facts about racism and the criminalization of blacks, the institutionalized system of inequity would have been fixed. But the city remains hyper-segregated and the facts alone do not get people mobilized or affect change.
It is the same thing in Palestine. We cannot present facts about a massacre without people forgetting how it happened, or hearing a counter-propaganda argument that blames Palestinian leadership for the death of their own people. There are unarmed people dying. Military snipers have targeted a young female medic, or children and amputees. But still most people believe there are two equal sides. So, presenting the facts is not working.
Remember, America went war in Iraq based on a lie. We forgot that lesson and went to war in Libya a few years later. These places are far away from Milwaukee, but it is the children of Milwaukee who serve in the military. The next generation of Milwaukee’s youth will have to fight in the next war. Go out to the Milwaukee VA hospital and look at the damage the young men live with, from their tours in Iraq.
All Wisconsin residents need to take an interest to understand this issue. Because the push for war on Palestine means that college students from Madison or UW-Milwaukee will not enter the workforce when they graduate, but be called to take cover under fire on another battlefield in the Middle East.
Right now, the number one goal of the Israeli government is the liquidation of the Palestine Cause. The goal is to crush every bit of resistance that stays with the Palestinian people. There is no push for a two-state policy, or even a one state solution to give Palestinians equal rights in Israel. The policy is just focused on crushing the people and any support, especially from other countries that aid Palestine.
America had the religiously ordained belief of Manifest Destiny, to occupy and control all the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Native Americans stood in the way, and they were massacred. The current Israeli Prime Minister has the same policy towards Palestinians, and America supports it. Iraq is an example of how we help overthrow governments in the name of so-called democracy, but of course forget about that purpose before the war is even over.
The push right now from Neo-Conservatives (Neocons), like Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. and a close Netanyahu ally, Ron Dermer – who is a friend of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, and a documented racist and allied with anti-Semites even though he is Jewish – is putting a lot of weight into the effort to crush the Palestinian people. That is what the Israeli occupation forces are doing, and it is also a move to start another really big war in the region with Iran.
So, if the majority of Americans think going to war in Iraq was a mistake, they should pay attention to the latest round of lies that frames the threat coming from Iran. Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton is pushing this plan, and it is why America backed out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.
It is all part of the Neocon’s Endless War strategy. All the actors are in place, and they follow the Israeli extremists who push for war. They are playing a geopolitical game, to liquidate and control the lives of Palestinian people who are standing in the way. It would be a disaster, not just for the region and the world, but all of America and right here in Wisconsin.
In Milwaukee, there are strongly established Jewish organizations that just follow along and support whatever policy Israel does. It is very Nationalistic, and they use religion for justification. But all jews are no more Zionists than all Christians are Evangelical. And other Jewish voices in Milwaukee are coming together and are standing up against what they feel is wrong. They want to see a free Palestine, because its security is connected to Jewish security.
By all statistics of how the local Jewish community voted, as related to Jewish-American policy positions, the Israel government does not represent their views. White America hides its racist attitudes behind a flag of patriotism, and so too is the Israeli government using Islamophobic fear and religion to excuse its oppression of a people who have historically lived together.
It is an insult to the military families of Milwaukee, for any organization to invite someone like Ambassador Dermer to speak at the Milwaukee County War Memorial. That hollowed location honors the memory of our local heroes who died in war. Yet, everything about the Neocon policy of Netanyahu is directed at creating another war. The best way to honor veterans and those who died in war is to stop the process of America’s Forever War. Just like arresting more blacks will not solve the issue of Milwaukee’s crime problem, fighting more wars will not make the world safe.
We have been in Afghanistan since 2001, and our government said that taking out the Taliban would solve the problem. The Taliban is still there, and so are our troops, and we continue to fight wars in the region. Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program, then America invaded and destroyed the government. In the power vacuum, ISIS rose up by using Libya’s military supplies.
Residents of Milwaukee need to ask, based on everything that has happened in recent years, what will the outcome of an Iran invasion be? We have not learned from our past disasters. So having Ambassador Dermer speak at a War Memorial is an arrogance and insult to everything our local heroes sacrificed for. Our military family members are still going to places like Yemen, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq. When they don’t come home, their names go on honor rolls along with those from the Korean War, Vietnam, and the World Wars.
The Israel policy on Palestine is just causing more suffering, and while people in Milwaukee do not care or even support the radial Zionist efforts, we will also pay the price for not solving the problem.
– Samir Moukaddam
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Wisconsin Muslim Journal