Mitt Romney arrives in Israel today as part of a three-country tour which began in, as Romney erroneously called it, “The Nation of Great Britain” — a nonexistent nation.
Anxious to enhance his foreign policy credentials by visiting England, Israel and Poland, his journey got off to a less than auspicious start when a Romney advisor said, “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he (Romney) feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
The adviser added Romney is “better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Obama.” Hmmm? Obama is foreign to the shared history. Obama as “The Other” again. How patronizing.
Are we really going to do that white country-club Anglo-Saxon America thing again? I wonder what Native Americans, Irish Catholics, Italians, Asians, Jews, Muslims, African-Americans and Latinos think about that? Anglo-Saxon America is not my America. It’s not what Americans fought a revolution and a civil war for. Americans did not fight in numerous foreign wars to protect Anglo-Saxon America. Get over it, Mitt. It’s history.
We are the world’s most diverse country. It’s great. To live within diversity is a challenge. It’s hard work but we know the struggle is worth it. America is great because of its diversity, because it has learned there is value in not allowing one group to have dominion over another.
Our diversity should be a source of pride. America has become enriched way beyond its “Anglo-Saxon” roots by waves of immigrants. While there is a debt to be paid to those who had the courage to leave their homelands to try to start a noble venture on North American shores, gratitude should be tempered by our knowledge that those “Anglo-Saxon” pioneers built America on stolen land using slave labor.
Immigrants then, as now, were vulnerable to prejudice and exploitation. In the end, the American dream prevailed. Within the dream, Americans strive, and many succeed, to live creative, successful, prosperous and fulfilled lives. Some struggle, and need assistance. We help out; that’s what real Americans do.
It seems that shared experience is not Romney’s. His dream is of an Anglo-Saxon nation. The rest of us get to work in it to support his Privilege.
As though to put an exclamation point on this philosophy, Mitt Romney vowed, if elected, to return the bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. Winnie’s bust, owned by the British government, had initially been loaned to President George W. Bush. Upon becoming president, Barack Obama replaced the Churchill bust with a sculpture of Republican President Abraham Lincoln. Not a shabby exchange.
Americans tend to consider Churchill in deservedly heroic terms, in the context of the greatness and courage, and the steadfastness in alliance with the United States, he exhibited in World War II. But there is another Winston Churchill. Many outside our Amero-centric world know Churchill as an imperialist; a fierce proponent of Great Britain’s colonial interests who in 1919, for example, wrote in support of putting down a Kurdish revolt in northern Iraq: ” I am strongly in favour(cq) of using poisoned gas against uncivilised(cq) tribes.”
Churchill wore many hats in advancing British interests of the British, from journalist to prime minister. He is remembered well in Kenya, for example, for support of the brutal suppression of the Mau-Mau revolt, an event certainly not unknown to President Obama.
I, too, would choose Lincoln over Churchill.
Today, Romney arrives in Israel, where colonialism and occupation challenge the character and security of the state. Settlement activity continues unabated, and today almost 200,000 Israelis live in Arab East Jerusalem and more than 350,000 additional Israelis live in colonies on the West Bank.
Mr. Romney will receive an enthusiastic welcome from his old friend, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. He will meet with Israeli politicians. He will visit, I hope, the Kotel, Western Wall and Yad Vashem. He will meet academics and entrepreneurs, military and intelligence analysts and he will hear certainly be told about how Israel believes Iran is an existential threat to Israel’s existence.
I don’t quarrel with the right of Israelis to make their case to Romney in terms they feel will be persuasive and compelling. Certainly, many of them believe (mistakenly, I believe) that Romney will be a better friend of Israel than President Obama. That’s their right. I believe also it is incumbent upon Romney to expose himself to many sides of these issues. Today, he can start by insisting upon a journey into the occupied territories:
Welcome to Occupied Palestine. Mr. Romney, visit East Jerusalem and the West Bank and see for yourself what occupation is doing to both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Recognize Mahmoud Darwish’s struggle in “Identity Card,” where he writes:
“Put it on record.
I am an Arab.
You stole my forefathers’ vineyards
And land I used to till,
I and all my children,
And you left us and all my grandchildren Nothing but these rocks.
Will your government be taking them too
As is being said?”
Travel to Hebron on roads for settlers only, forbidden to Palestinians, to see the worst face of the occupation. Visit colonies built upon stolen Arab land and marvel at their green grass and swimming pools, irrigated by Palestinian water which Arabs themselves cannot access.
Mr. Romney, see Budrus and Bil’in, villages which non-violently resist occupation. Finally, check out the Separation Wall, which is appropriating even more Palestinian land. Tell Israel that if they want such a wall to build it exclusively on Israeli land. Mr Romney, ask Netanyahu how this appropriation makes peace possible. Mr. Romney, for the sake of Israel, for the sake of Americans and Palestinians, for the sake of all those who value peace, let the Holy Land open your eyes and heart. Help all find the straight path that leads to justice: to security for Israelis and statehood for Palestinians.
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.