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May 28, 2007

Ask Oprah To Also Visit The West Bank And Gaza


Oprah Winfrey will be arriving in Israel for a solidarity visit in the near future, the queen of American talk shows announced Monday during an event at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

In the event, Winfrey was honored by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity for her contribution to promoting humanitarian issues.

Wiesel called on Winfrey to visit Israel, where "the major war against terror is currently taking place."

In her speech, Winfrey said she sympathized with the suffering of the people of Israel, and that she intended to accept Wiesel's invitation and come with him to Israel.

Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Gillerman, who attended the event, said that a visit of a figure with such influence on the international media could help bring an end to the indifference towards the terror threat faced by Israelis.

In the abstract, of course, there's nothing wrong with Oprah visiting Israel. Moreover, as strongly as I disagree with Wiesel in this area, I give anyone who lived through what he did a free pass to be as crazy as they wish.

But. If there's one thing confused America doesn't need, it's Oprah giving them a one-sided presentation of this issue. In particular we better hope the Oprah Army doesn't learn Israel is where "the major war against terror is currently taking place."

So, peace groups in Israel are asking everyone to take a minute and write to Oprah to ask her to also visit the West Bank and Gaza...and then pass it along to as many friends as possible. Here's what I said:

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

I'm writing to ask you to please visit the West Bank and/or Gaza as well as Israel during your upcoming trip to the area.

I commend you for your sympathy with the suffering of regular Israelis. However, it's important to remember the even greater suffering of regular Palestinians. I urge you to use your program to give a platform to the many people on both sides who wish to live together in peace.

(Thanks to Dennis for telling me about this.)

Posted at May 28, 2007 01:52 AM | TrackBack

"I survived the Holocaust. Let me persecute Arabs."

Why should Wiesel get a free pass? Just because someone survived the Nazis does not mean he/she should be exempt from normal standards of behavior of not implicitly or explicitly advocating racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing or deliberate military attacks on civilians.

Excusing holocaust survivors of all moral obligations is no different than arguing that sexual assault victims should have the right to engage in robbery just because they're victims.

Posted by: anon at May 28, 2007 04:20 AM

I wasn't rude, but I failed to complement her. I think I said something about the people living in crushing poverty and dying violent deaths being disproportionately Palestinian.

Your approach must be better, because now they cannot guarantee that I'll receive a personal response from Oprah.

Posted by: StO at May 28, 2007 05:05 AM


Why should Wiesel get a free pass?

For the same reasons I'd give a free pass for craziness to a Palestinian whose whole family was killed by phalangists when they were nine. I'm not comfortable judging people who've been brutalized like that.

Moreover, there are zillions of people with exactly Wiesel's outlook who've always lived lives of comfort and ease. I'm too busy judging them to get to him. Maybe if I live to be 4,000 years old.


Your approach must be better, because now they cannot guarantee that I'll receive a personal response from Oprah.

That indeed was your mistake. She wrote back to me, and now we are to be wed.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at May 28, 2007 07:27 AM

I wonder if Oprah's show on this issue will help bring Jesus back sooner.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at May 28, 2007 08:15 AM

Two comments.

1. When Auden wrote that line about --those to whom evil is done do evil unto others in return --he meant it as an insight into human nature understood since the Greeks, not as a free pass.
I had an uncle who survived Auschwitz, and yes, he was "crazy" because of it. But he cashed in his "free pass" after some years, realizing the limits of his earned craziness. Wiesel once wrote that every Jew should carry a piece of hatred in his heart for Germans, for what they did. The problem is, it ought to read "every human being," and there now are plenty of other "old Germans" in the world; always were.

2. If not "one-sided," where do you find a "fair" or "even-handed" presentation of this issue? What would that sound like? Anon's analogy above is so wide off the mark even the best logic prof might throw up his hands.
It is my impression that on the right-wing blogs Israel can do no wrong, and on the progressive or left blogs it can do no right and never could because Zionism always was and remains colonialist oppression. Not much room for even-handed compassion or empathy in the context of the history of both peoples on either side.

Posted by: donescobar at May 28, 2007 08:27 AM

To put in plain words what I was snarking about:

U.S. support of Israel's continued repression of the Palestinians is one of the major drivers of the so-called "clash of civilizations". Oprah's visit to the Holy Land seems clearly designed to support the status quo. One important component of the American public which supports the status quo is the "Christianist" element which interprets the Book of Revelation as providing a blueprint for the near future - the "Left Behind" series has sold millions of copies, after all. I have close relatives who think this way. Oprah's show will encourage them, and in fact seems designed to do so.

May the Creative Forces of the Universe have mercy on our souls, if any.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at May 28, 2007 08:35 AM

We can, of course, always just skip over the judging of individuals, and limit ourselves to their words and acts. Everyone has SOME reason for the way they turned out.

Posted by: Cass at May 28, 2007 08:48 AM

Not to mention that the mainstream media has made it almost impossible to make anyone Anti-Israeli also not sound Anti-Semitic. I recall that for a while the Jewish homeland was favored to be POLAND due to the large Ashkenazic population that featured in the early Zionist movement, and quite a number even wanted YIDDISH taught as the national language. I think this was something that Ahmadinejad wished to exploit in his Holocaust Conference. He knew that mainstream thought in the West has been framed in such a way that you could not conceive of a way to respect Judaism without a Jewish state.

Posted by: at May 28, 2007 08:53 AM

1. Understanding of many aspects of Judaism, and respect for some, existed long before the first Zionist Congress in 1896.
2. Unfortunate, but the Jews wanted to get the hell out of Europe. And why not? Even before the Austro-Germans showed the mostly pleased Euros how to deal with the Juden plague. But where to put the pesky scholars and peddlers?
3. They and we now live with the cultured Europeans shoving the jew problem under the Arab rug. Bad, bad decision. Blame the Zionist dream turned into something close to the opposite, blame the world's powers and peoples too. And blame the Arab states, less for their hostility to the Jews as for their indifference to the displaced Palestinians. There is not one, not one good side or element in any of this.

Posted by: donescobar at May 28, 2007 09:15 AM

I'm generally with donescobar on this, though maybe not entirely. I think there's a lot of truth to the claim that Zionism was a form of colonialism (didn't have to be and wasn't for everyone, but for the mainstream figures it was.) But the root cause of the Israeli/Arab conflict was Christian antisemitism. Without that there would still have been Zionism, but maybe it would have taken the entirely benign binationalist form. Whether the Arabs would have gone along I don't know, but many or most might have. But with Jews being persecuted or despised in Europe there's going to be a very strong desire for a Jewish state, nevermind what the Arabs might want.

Wiesel--well, give him a pass to be crazy, but take away his pass to be the world's moral conscience, because he falls pretty far short in that department. Listen to him on the Holocaust and pay no attention to him otherwise.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 28, 2007 11:12 AM

Well, I wrote her. I was very polite, told her there were multiple points of view on both sides, urged her to talk to ordinary Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, peace activists, the people at B'Tselem and present as many points of view as time permitted.
Lots of "pleases".

If she's sincere , she or her staff (her staff, obviously) would read a letter like mine and think "This guy is making a perfectly legitimate point."

Hopefully they won't then hit the delete key.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 28, 2007 11:31 AM

If you read about the pre-Israel Zionists, you come acros the dreamers of a Jewish/Arab state, with both working on the land, building up the area together, a Tolstoyan/socialist-workers' ideal--but what chance did they have against a reality dominated by nationalist/religious/tribal fanatics and executors of Realpolitik? There, or anywhere else, for that matter.
Almost all the dreams hatched by them and other European idealists before and especially after World War One have gone up in flames. From Guernica to Auschwitz, the fires wiped out what my dad, who in his innocence learned Esperanto to speak with all peoples of Europe, had sweetly hoped for. The war to end all wars turned into the beginning of endless war.

Posted by: donescobar at May 28, 2007 11:40 AM

Who knows, maybe she will do some good for those people (both peoples). SOMEONE NEEDS TO. (chances are better with OPRAH than CONDI.)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 28, 2007 12:40 PM

" bring an end to the indifference towards the terror threat faced by Israelis."

The U.S. is "indifferent" to the tune of $2.4 billion in military aid. A year.

There is always far more coverage of a few Israeli civilians killed in a restaurant than hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed. But to be fair, the Israelis are white...

I'm not going to pick sides here, but that statement is just ridiculous, and it can't possibly help Israel's cause when people say things like that.

Posted by: Erich at May 28, 2007 03:25 PM

No matter whose fault the problems in Israel and Palestine are, it sure isn't because of the over abundance of GOODWILL in the neighborhood. Having seen and read about the previous ACTS so called "bringing peace to the Middle East" I would DEFINATELY TRUST OPRAH OR A MR. ROGERS, before I would anyone in this Administration. A SMILE, A KIND WORD, AND A COOL DRINK OF WATER will go a hell of a lot farther than ANYTHING George Bush et. al. have to offer.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 28, 2007 05:16 PM

Mike you have a really good point there. The neoconservative policies of Bush have made his administration so toxic over there that I really don't think anyone other than the hard Right Israelis would welcome an evoy from his administration.

But a US media star like Oprah.. it's good on more than one level. She could educate people over here about the situation, lots of people. Because lots of people watch her show. And she is actually a better diplomat, in some ways, than anyone in our government now.

I really hope that she takes us up on this! This could be really cool if she does! Imagine, Oprah taking an actual look at how Palestine is, and how Israel is! Oh, I should not get too excited, I know...

(Oh, and I sent the email to Oprah, basically along the lines of what Johnathan suggested.)

Posted by: atheist at May 28, 2007 08:16 PM

Nothing to do with how people in the Middle East feel about George Bush it's how George Bush feels about other human beings, in general. His entourage has the same social problem. Were you, atheist, to personally lead one of them into a room with the explicit instructions on how to conduct a successful diplomatic negotiation, even add the ear plug and wire and "bam", they will PISS the other negotiators off. It's a DRY WELL, NOTHING THERE. NO TALENT. NO DESIRE TO SUCCEED. THEY DON'T REALLY CARE.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 28, 2007 09:14 PM

Well, according to Oprah's show, all Israel needs to do to achieve peace is think happy thoughts.

Why do they have trouble with their neighbors? They think negative thoughts!

I heard it on Oprah.

Posted by: Jon H at May 28, 2007 09:21 PM

How can you tell an Israeli ambassador is lying? He appears on C-Span and his lips move.

Posted by: liberal white boy at May 28, 2007 10:25 PM

"That indeed was your mistake. She wrote back to me, and now we are to be wed."

Yeah, that's what Stedman thinks, too.

Everyone knows Oprah's heart belongs to Gayle.

Posted by: Jon H at May 28, 2007 11:46 PM

I remember watching Oprah, before the invasion of Iraq, ridicule a women who was raising intelligent questions about WMDs, the real threat of Saddam, why was war needed...... kinda changed my opinion of Oprah.

Posted by: Susan at May 29, 2007 01:58 AM

if Jesus came back now, I'd say it'd be even money that he'd be denounced as the antichrist. especially if he started in with all that peace and love jazz.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at May 29, 2007 05:59 PM

What a bargain! Only $5,700 per Israeli. Versus the stupid war that their (and our) hawks wanted us to fight in Iraq that has thus far cost us "only" $15,672 per Iraqi and promises to probably triple that total when all expenses are taken into account in the future.

Posted by: Wisnton at May 31, 2007 06:16 PM

Oprah does listen. During a 2002 show a woman in the audience told Oprah that a prowar guest was full of propoganda. Oprah told the woman she had a right to her opinion, and shortly after that Oprah started a massive antiwar series that lasted right up to the day before the war started. On pg 87 of DUDE WHERE'S MY COUNTRY Michael Moore praised Oprah for being the ONLY mainstream media to join the antiwar movement before the war occured. He was so impressed he ended up endorsing her for president in the same book.

Posted by: Jake at June 24, 2007 07:51 AM

It seems that after WWII, Jewish people were determined to have a homeland so that no one could persecute them ever again. Totally understandable. What isn't understandable is how people who were humiliated and oppressed and said Never Again humiliate and oppress others.

I wonder if Palestinians should give up their territory and become Israeli citizens with a different identity than Jewish Israelis - Arab Israelis - and demand the same rights to infrastructure that Jewish Israelis have access too. Bi-culturalism, bi-lingualism and living as people of faith, may be the answer.

Posted by: Aziza Khan at June 27, 2007 04:03 PM

Oprah: Go visit the real Palestininas in srviving in their occupied land. go to poor houses in GAza and the west Bank. you will meet loving people though.

Posted by: nadahomsi at August 4, 2007 10:45 AM

Oprah: Go visit the real Palestininas srviving in their occupied land. go to poor houses in Gaza and the west Bank. you will meet loving people though.

Posted by: nadahomsi at August 4, 2007 10:47 AM