Hawking for Israel

South Florida reps push for war. But who are they pushing for?

And it's a dangerous policy, according to Nidal Sakr, a Muslim political activist from Miami Beach. Wexler and other liberal Jewish hawks are "clearly serving foreign interests rather than the national interest they are supposed to be serving," says Sakr, who runs a group called March for Justice. "The U.S.-Israeli relationship is the largest threat to our national security and the safety of our citizens. Our support for Israel and its crimes against Palestinians that have been denounced again and again by the international community and the United Nations fuels the anti-American sentiments and feelings of hatred that are being compounded around the world."

For the record, I believe that Yasser Arafat is a terrorist and Sharon is a war criminal. Both have been implicated in the killings of countless civilians. Both are violent, power-hungry, small men who hope to eradicate the other's people. And both are manifestations of an age-old madness that can't cure itself. The world, through the United Nations, needs to solve that problem with armed peacekeeping forces and nation-building plans that dictate a two-state system fair to both Israel and Palestine.

But America, with its many vetoes of U.N. sanctions against Israel for alleged human rights abuses, helps to keep that from happening. And until there is peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, any talk of attacking Iraq is premature and damaging to our relations in the region.

Ruebner, who trekked to the West Bank last month, reports there is much fear among Palestinians that Israel will use the chaos of a war in Iraq as cover for ethnic cleansing -- not to kill them but to forcibly remove them from the area. If Iraq launches missiles at Israel and mad dog Sharon jumps into the fight, Ruebner expects atrocities.

When I asked Wexler what he thought about such a possibility, he reacted with surprise at the term "ethnic cleansing" and said: "If Israel is being threatened by Palestinians, they need to respond. Sometimes the right to self-defense is the right to be proactive, to preempt, as President Bush has said, to eliminate a danger before it destroys you. Sometimes you just can't wait."

This rather unsettling answer makes me wonder if getting rid of the Palestinians isn't a hidden goal of this push for the so-called regime change by the Jewish hawks (a group that, incidentally, includes Paul Wolfowitz, the chief war ideologue in the Bush administration, and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, a key pitchman for the invasion).

While he casts Palestinians as usurpers and terrorists, Wexler speaks glowingly of Israel as a bastion of peace, love, and understanding. "I am a steadfast supporter of the American-Israeli relationship that is based on shared values, democracy, freedom, and the love of life," he says robotically, as if the words were encoded in a computer chip inserted in his brain.

I asked him, "Are you saying that Israel's hands are clean? That it hasn't committed any atrocities?"

He paused and euphemized, "Israel at times has made mistakes in terms of strategy. Even they have admitted that."

Of course the Israelis have admitted it or Wexler wouldn't have conceded the point. For his pandering, Wexler was recently ridiculed in the British magazine Bully. After a BBC interview in May, he made Bully's "Piss List" (which is described as "things that irk the shit out of us") for this remark: "Americans are just rock solid with the people of Israel. It is a democratic nation and a freedom-loving people and a very decent people, and they deserve to have a free and secure state."

The magazine added this comment: "If Israel loves freedom so much, why won't they let inspectors establish whether a massacre occurred in Jenin in April? Wexler should try that pitch on the innocent Palestinians who have had their houses bulldozed for 'strategic' purposes."

Wexler, in recent months, has also been peddling an attack on Iraq to government leaders around the world. Just in the past several months, he's traveled to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey trying to win support for ousting Saddam. And he has been urging Congress to increase trade with Turkey in an effort to buy that key country's support. It's part of a very quiet effort on the part of our wonderful country to purchase allies for the unpopular and bloody business of overturning the Iraqi regime.

"Turkey is an incredibly important ally of the U.S.," Wexler says before assuring me that the Turks will soon jump on the war train. "They are a model country for other countries in the region. And right now, Turkey has enormous economic problems. They're leading the fight in Afghanistan, and I think America has an obligation to help Turkey like they are helping us."

Wexler agrees that an attack on Iraq presents horrific dangers. He acknowledges that it carries a "grave risk" to stability in the Arab world and might set off other conflicts. He rues the fact that it could detract from the rebuilding of Afghanistan, which he notes is already at the brink of falling apart. He says that the sure loss of American soldiers is his "highest concern" and that Iraq may well attack Israel in retaliation. He also concedes that there is no "smoking gun" tying Saddam to 9/11 or any terrorism against American targets.

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