[From Palestine Chronicle]

Whitney Houston’s Middle East Dementia

Tuesday, June 03 2003 @ 08:28 PM GMT

"She is telling her many fans around the world, especially in America, that there is nothing wrong with the state’s conduct in the Occupied Territories, its racist ideology, or its smug flouting of international law .."

By Roger H. Lieberman,
For PalestineChronicle.com

New Jersey – The story of Whitney Houston’s recent visit to the Zionist State proves once more that truth can be stranger than fiction, as it was an incredibly bizarre vacation in multiple ways. The black American celebrity spent much of her stay in Dimona, the southern Israeli town widely believed to be the center of the state’s extensive clandestine nuclear program. More curiously, Houston had chosen to spend her vacation in this remote Negev settlement because it is home to a 2000-member sect known as the “Black Hebrews”, who are actually African Americans who emigrated to Israel back in the ever-so-ancient 1960s. What is more, these residents of Dimona in fact fancy themselves the descendants of one of the fabled “lost” Israelite tribes. To round off her exciting day, Whitney traveled to Jerusalem, where, after paying her respects of Prime Minister/Butcher Sharon, she went seeking further “inspiration” from Tourism Minister Benny Elon, a hideously racist politician who openly advocates the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians! Said Houston of her “spiritual retreat” in Sharon-land, “It’s home. It’s a friendship I’ve never had with any other country”.

With all due respect to Whitney Houston’s religious and political convictions, it is very hard for a person of reason to avoid vomiting while listening to her sing the praises of a state engaged in the systematic destruction of an entire society. However much “at home” she may feel in Zionist Israel, Ms. Houston ought to realize that she is effectively condoning the persecution of three and a half million Palestinians. She is not merely “sending the message” that Israel is a “safe place to travel in”. She is telling her many fans around the world, especially in America, that there is nothing wrong with the state’s conduct in the Occupied Territories, its racist ideology, or its smug flouting of international law. At a time when successful celebrities – who, as a rule, like to be seen as champions of the poor and oppressed – ought to be shunning Israel and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, Whitney Houston’s public relations antics of late are, frankly, an abomination.

But I can’t help wondering how much the famous diva really knows about the struggle for Palestine, and the egregious behavior of the state she claims to feel such friendship for. Does Whitney Houston know that 750,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven from their homes by Zionist forces in 1948, during Israel’s “War of Independence”? It might interest her to know that to this day, those refugees and their descendants are denied the right to return to their homeland simply because they aren’t Jewish, while people like her friends in Dimona are lavished with Israeli citizenship merely because they claim some distant “Hebrew” ancestry. Does the aforementioned pop star know about the heinous April 1948 massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin, and that two of the men involved in its perpetration – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir – later became Israeli prime ministers? Or that the present one, Ariel Sharon, is the man who orchestrated Israel’s barbarous 1982 invasion of Lebanon and siege of Beirut? Has she ever heard of the huge apartheid wall the Israeli regime is currently erecting in the West Bank to surround a Palestinian “state” that will be a nothing more than a vast, seething concentration camp? And during her stay in Dimona, did Whitney pause to consider the fate of tens of thousands of Negev Bedouins – people who, as any honest scholar knows, are far more akin to the ancient Israelites than the so-called “Black Hebrews” – who have been dispossessed to “make room” for her “friends”? I would like to think that her love affair with Zionism is made possible only by the historical illiteracy she shares with so many Americans when it comes to the Middle East, and that her opinions are not impervious to the truth.

It would be inaccurate, though, to view Whitney Houston’s Middle East dementia as an isolated case. Rather, a great many people in America, and in the West share the veteran singer’s illogical perspective on the Holy Land. The majority of Western Christians and Jews has gained much of their knowledge of the Middle East from the biblical narrative, and thus has grown up viewing the region in a highly metaphysical context. From such a perspective, Palestine-Israel is seen in the mind’s eye, not as a geographical location, inhabited by men and women with the same fundamental needs as oneself, but as a place apart from the rest of the world, where normal laws governing the course of events do not apply.

The platonic view of Palestine treats ideological portrayals of the land as more important, indeed, more real, than the land as it physically exists, or the people of the land as they exist. This peculiar ability to deny the reality of the Holy Land in the name of loving it was well illustrated by the early Zionists. Men like Theodore Herzl and Chaim Weitzman dreamed of Palestine as an “empty land” awaiting the “return” of the Diaspora Jewish communities – a dream inspired by the words of the Old Testament prophets. When it became obvious that Palestine was in fact inhabited by hundreds of thousands of indigenous Muslims and Christians – as well as a small number of Jews - the Zionist political leadership, except for some courageous intellectuals, stubbornly refused to change their goals for the future of the land. Instead of embracing their Palestinian neighbors as equals, they resolved to force the human reality to somehow conform to their obsessive fantasy of a “pure” Jewish state. To do this required violence – massive, organized, state-sanctioned violence. Such is the basic essence of the State of Israel, as it has existed for over half a century.

If true peace and prosperity is to grace the Holy Land in our lifetime, all of the inhabitants of Palestine-Israel – Jews, Muslims, and Christians – must embrace humanism and logic, and reject blind, destructive zealotry. Many cultural threads have woven together to produce the tapestry of the modern Middle East, and this reality is far lovelier for everyone than anything millennial fanaticism has to offer anyone. Common sense and decency can still carry the day, Whitney Houston notwithstanding.

Roger H. Lieberman is a senior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, majoring in Geology.



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