Rick Steves, everyone’s favorite travel guide, is at it again.
Steves got a lot of attention a couple of years ago when he traveled to Iran, and made a passionate humanist and humanitarian plea for Americans to get to know Iran, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Steves was by no means apologetic (pointing out the government brutality and censorship), but was intent on pointing out the many beauties of the Iranian people and the gorgeous landscape. Steves called Iran “just might be the most fascinating and surprising land I’ve ever visited”, and followed that up with important discussions about Iran in Palo Alto.
That was not an isolated case. Rick Steves had penned an op-ed in response to 9/11, titled: “Can we fight terrorism constructively?” It proved to be one of the more insightful and commonsense approaches to the complex world in which we find ourselves today.
Well, Steves is at it again. He has a new column out, this time about that other controversial Middle-eastern issue: yup, Palestine/Israel.
In his new post on Huffington Post, “Reflections on Palestine and Israel”, Rick Steves acknowledges that he now understands
how my understanding of the struggles in the Middle East has been skewed by most of our mainstream media. I saw how coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian problem is brilliantly controlled and shaped. I pride myself in understanding how the media works... and I find I've been bamboozled.
Steves correctly comes to realize that Israel is engaged in a decades long occupation of Palestinian territories in West Bank and Gaza:
The question of whether Israel is conducting a brutal military occupation or a reasonable defense against terrorism gets no real airtime. If we care about the long-term security of Israel, we have a responsibility to understand what our government is funding and supporting.
He suggests to his viewers (in the millions), to watch the documentary that led to his own awakening, titled “Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land”, which is available online.
What’s remarkable about Rick Steves comments about Iran and Israel is simply that Steves is just about the most unobjectionable character on TV, a sweet combination of wonderful curiosity, cultural sensitivity, a tremendous delight in the humanity of people worldwide, and admiration for art and beauty at a broad scale.
It is precisely these types of voices that are most threatening to the establishment powers of the radical pro-Israel lobby [such as AIPAC], as they bypass their propaganda hegemony, and simply connect with Americans at a human to human level.
The simple starting point of a peaceful solution to Palestine/Israel is this: none of us Americans would willingly agree to live in the situation of occupation, humiliation, political disempowerment, and being without almost any meaningful political rights that Palestinians have been living under for more than 40 years.
Palestinians live in nothing that resembles a continguous states, but what can only be termed a modern-day Bantustan, akin to what we used to find in Apartheid era South Africa.
This archipelago of Palestinian lands surrounded by Jews-only illegal settlements and Jews-only highways and roads simply cannot at any point be converted to a meaningful Palestinian State. None of us (hopefully) would want to live in a state where there are Whites-only roads, or consent to government enforced Whites-only settlements, and yet this is precisely what we find in the illegally Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. As Steves recognizes, all of this is paid for through US taxpayer money.
So we find ourselves in a charade when Netanyahu receives standing ovations in the US Congress, and we speak of a “peace process” when on a daily basis the Israeli government continues to bulldoze, steal, and build on Palestinian lands. Here is a map of what has taken place to historical Palestine over the last few decades:
There is no hope in the immediate future of either the Republicans or the Democrats having the moral conviction to call the situation what it is. Perhaps our hope is that there will be more and more people like Rick Steves who will stand up and point out the absurdity of situations that we as Americans are funding with our tax dollars. Maybe that can be the start of moving towards a US foreign policy actually based on peace and justice, instead of lies and support for injustice.
Thank you, Rick Steves, for being a part of the movement towards the solution.