By Willcox, David R.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. 12, No. 1
Seeing the Light: Protesting the Injustices I Preferred Not to See
Born less than eight months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and only four years old when World War II ended, I have few firsthand memories of that war, and none of the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe. Nor did I have any knowledge whatsoever about what subsequently happened in the British Mandate of Palestine. I was dependent upon our statesmen, historians, religious figures, and the media to educate me over the years.
I was a typical white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, American boy and, in retrospect, I fear that, as a teenager, I carried more than my share of prejudice, fear and bigotry in my head. These negatives encompassed Jews, although I had never really known any Jews on a personal level. When, eventually, I learned about the horrors of the European Holocaust, and the evils visited on the Jewish people throughout history, I was heartsick with guilt because of my personal prejudices. From that point onward, I looked upon the Jewish people with many of the same old prejudices in my head, but with tremendous sorrow and pity in my heart.
God has a wonderful way of getting your attention from time to time. When I was 20, I learned that the parents of a woman with whom I had fallen in love had come to the United States as German Jewish refugees from Hitler. Though my love truly was hopeless, in the time we dated her wonderful parents came to represent to me every decent, human ideal I could imagine.
As the years passed, I began taking an increasing interest in current affairs. The conflicting earlier feelings in my head and in my heart undoubtedly intensified my reactions to news from the Middle East. By then, the media were full of information about the state of Israel's perpetual struggle against the bloodthirsty Arab states encircling it. Because I was informed that these Arabs were bent on the total destruction of Israel and her people, I drew the obvious inference that the Arabs suffered a terminal case of what we called "anti-Semitism." This was the big picture, painted with a broad brush, and it didn't occur to me to ask myself why or how any of this could be so. I heard and saw only what my mind wished to hear and see.
Entering the 1970s and my 30s, I "witnessed," through the various mainstream media, Israel's many battles for survival. I was very supportive of the Israelis throughout this period, although I was shocked when I "witnessed," again through the media, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 in which 34 Americans were killed. I assumed that it was just a case of mistaken identity which occurred because the American ship happened to wander into the wrong place at the wrong time. (War is hell.)
In the 1970s and 1980s I also "witnessed," through the various mainstream media, much activity on the part of Arabs, particularly the "Palestinian terrorists." These bloody, random actions seemed senseless and purposeless. It did not occur to me to wonder why these people did these horrific things. I was increasingly aware, however, that something must be missing in my mental picture of Middle Eastern history.
The few times I was able to discuss the subject of Israel/Palestine with someone I thought might be knowledgeable on the subject, however, I was misled. If I feel guilt now, it is over my willingness to believe what so clearly was illogical. I was told that the situation had been going on since the beginning of time, and that the adversaries had "always" been mortal enemies. I also was told that the situation was so complex that there was no way to sort it out, and that peace could "never" be attained in the region. If I feel anger now, it is when I hear "experts" still spouting these same, tired, and completely erroneous statements.
Then came the Israeli "incursion" into Lebanon. When the mainstream media could only explain that what looked like simple aggression was, instead, "complex," my confusion became frustration. …