But There is No Peace – Why the Mideast “Peace Process” Needs to End

It was at my Uncle Mark’s fourth grade parent-teacher conference in 1970 that my Bubbe and Grandpa began to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mark had brought home his Chapter 2 math test, pressed with a ripe, shiny “78%.” There had been no teacher’s note, no call home, no indication that Mark had been struggling. The C+ wasn’t a failing grade, but it certainly signaled a fundamental misunderstanding of the material at hand. Why, my grandparents wondered, was there such a glaring lack of constructive follow-up?

By the time the conference came around, my Grandpa – whose charming frankness has bolstered a long career in business – was prepared to leave any sense of evasion at the door.

“Why did my son get a C on the last math test?” he asked Mr. Johnson.

The teacher explained that math grading was on a numerical basis, and the test had been worth a total of fifty points. Mark had scored thirty-eight of them, a C+. “We just present the material,” Mr. Johnson told my grandparents, “It’s up to the students to grasp it.” The teacher, it seemed, viewed his own reasoning as sound and effective.

My grandparents, however, saw a stark and damaging problem – one that could lead easily to more severe problems: Mark hadn’t been asked to study again or re-take the test, nor had Mr. Johnson made an effort to remediate the lessons of which his student had demonstrated such misunderstanding. Mark had likely not been the only fourth-grader to perform at a sub-par level. And yet, the class had continued on to Chapter 3.

There was no mention, at that fateful conference, of either Israel or Palestine. When I hear my Grandpa recount the story, I imagine the walls of the room being plastered with alphabet posters, shelves stacked with The Wind in the Willows dioramas and sheets upon sheets of smudged cursive letters. Admittedly, never, upon hearing that story, have my thoughts turned to the Middle East.

Until last week, when I sat in the back of a jam-packed ballroom at the Beverly Hilton hotel. There, I listened as Shimon Peres, Israel’s celebrated and articulate president, addressed a crowd of hundreds of supporters of Los Angeles’s Jewish Federation. The moderator of the discussion asked Peres about Palestinian feelings of irrelevance. “Peace is a process,” Peres said, “not just a decision.” As I thought about that, my mind flashed to the parent-teacher conference. The following is where my mind wandered.

“Peace,” as an ideal, is Chapter 7, where all key figures – political entities, leaders, militaries, religious and societal groups – wear Mark’s shoes, hardly keeping hold of chapter two. Pushing them toward peace is akin to asking an out-of-shape toddler to swim the length of an Olympic pool. Peace, its very essence abstract, nondescript, and romanticized, connotes almost nothing concrete. By its nature, it is conceptual, not tangible. Its pursuit has propagated seasons of volatility, unrest, frustration, and regression on which the sun has yet to set.

In early 1775, on the eve of the birth of a nation that would become the world’s flagship demonstration of progressive thinking, one colonial leader conceded that the notion of “peace” was naïve – that his revolutionary brothers were better off acknowledging antagonism as an inevitable constant. “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace,” Patrick Henry told his compatriots, “But there is no peace.”

History dictates that diplomatic agreements in the Middle East serve to carry out specific regional tasks, almost never an inkling of broad, blanket “peace.” Camp David created a military and economic alliance between Egypt and Israel in 1979. Oslo curbed the First Intifada in 1993. The disengagement from Gaza was a step toward Palestinian independence, even if at the cost of Hamas’ rise. In each case, the ideal of “peace” fell victim to its abstract nature, instead moving toward a concrete, more humble, and feasible goal. Peace is too vague to attain.

When dignitaries allude to “peace in the Middle East,” they do so with an equivocal pseudo-idealism – a diplomatic irony of sorts. Any “necessity” for a peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an illusion. Reaching for peace is futile. The Middle East needs a stability process.

Stability begins with the agenda. A Palestinian government, Mahmoud Abbas wrote in his application for admission to the United Nations, would devote itself to continuing talks on “final status issues” once a state existed. In his purview, those constitute “Jerusalem, the Palestine refugees, settlements, borders, security and water.” But, through an Israeli lens, a comprehensive resolution will ride on negotiations that seek to rectify the Jewish state’s own distinct existential challenges, most of them demographic.

A “two-state solution” is achievable only where stability exists; stability will exist where the raging fires that are the above issues are quenched. If they continue to burn even after the allowance of Palestinian state, a two-state solution will not have been reached; rather, the region would take on a two-state existence with perpetual two-state troubles.

Suppose that the agenda for the stability process had room for only two issues. One must be a primarily Palestinian issue, one a primarily Israeli issue, and one that truly requires bilateral policy decisions. Those two issues – which, if resolved responsibly and with a necessary degree of compromise, could usher in the beginnings of regional stability in this era – are that of Palestinian national governance and Israel’s West Bank settlement policy.

There are those who call themselves “Palestinians” living in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank – a disunited constituency. In the aforementioned document, however, Abbas refers to the Palestinian Liberation Authority (PLO) as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

For the last several days, the towns on Israel’s southwest side have fallen prey to an incessant rocket barrage by terrorists. On Sunday afternoon, two of the weapons fell in Be’er Sheva; one struck a school, and the other a car parked just outside of a home.

Hamas governs Gaza. A separate parliamentary coalition governs Israel. Under whose sphere of influence do those terrorists fall? Which leader, which government, is responsible for punishing those who commit such egregious acts, for deterring Palestinians from carrying out future attacks? Indeed, another state will come – stability will come – once all Palestinians know whom to call “Mr. President.”

By no means are settlements in the West Bank the sole roadblock to peace, but building and extending them only further agitates an ever-agitated people. House renovations in East Jerusalem needn’t end, but the Israeli government’s slews of new housing projects continue to edge more and more deeply into the West Bank and, thus, into the collective Palestinian psyche.

There is a legal statute in many American cities that states that if two neighbors have lived by certain property lines for a number of years, those lines become the lawful boundaries – even if they weren’t originally articulated as such by city plans. If Palestine is to be, effectively, the West Bank, then, before the state is established, Israel must act as though those lines already exist, and, accordingly, stop preemptively infringing upon national sovereignty. As of now, Israel has the right to establish its own housing projects in the West Bank, but it also has the power to cease.

This conflict is rife with more perplexing contortions than is an Escher painting, more hidden crevices than the canyons of Yosemite. I would never claim that this is the one and only way to solve this. That would reflect an arrogance that could have unsafe repercussions in this debate. For those reasons, I don’t call this a plan for peace; it is merely a few steps that might lead to more stability in a world in which “there is no peace.” Bubbe and Grandpa were right: Where we are Uncle Mark, a stable region is Chapter 3.

When Jews Criticize Israel – Why Cautious Rebuke is a Mechanism of Defense

Earlier this month, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles ran an article entitled “Wolpe vs. Beinart.” The piece was Rabbi David Wolpe’s passionate and compelling response to an email Peter Beinart recently sent to supporters of J-Street.

Beinart’s e-mail scolds the American Jewish community for failing to develop a link with West Bank Palestinians similar to that which it maintained with the freedom fighters of the 1960s. In the email, Beinart asserts that “the great Jewish question of our age is whether a people who for millennia lived as strangers—and spun visions of justice that inspired the world—will act justly now that we wield power.” Rabbi Wolpe denounces and questions the categorical nature of Beinart’s words, painting them as arrogant and presumptuous. Feigning the knowledge of the steps Israel must take toward peace, he writes, displays “a strutting lack of humility.”

The following is my response to that exchange:

There may, in fact, be no single “great Jewish question of our age.” Many observers of the Jewish state argue that the preeminent “question” is that of a nuclear Iran. Others assert that Jewish survival depends on a peoples’ capacity to renew its tradition and re-contextualize it in the modern era. Still others view remedying the Israeli government’s relationship with its ultra-orthodox population as a burning necessity. A claim like Beinart’s, which labels one challenge as “the great Jewish question,” and offers definitive answers to any of these questions, is irresponsible and does, as Rabbi Wolpe suggests, reflect a degree of arrogance.

Beinart’s comments, however, propagate another important question, or line of them: Is it acceptable for Jews not to glorify the core tenets of Israeli society? Can one be a Zionist – learn about, teach about, or love Israel – through a non-idealistic and sobering lens? Does “criticism” carry an unconditionally detrimental connotation?

I find few moments more fulfilling than standing atop Mount Arbel as the sun peaks over the Sea of Galilee. My Jewish soul overflows with pride when Israel is the first to respond to a natural disaster in a country who condemns its very existence. I feel profound spiritual connection among the ancient, towering walls of the Old City. I am an ohev tzion – a lover of Israel.

Even so, Israel is a political entity, and, like all other political entities, its government makes mistakes – militarily, economically, religiously, and politically. Rabbi Wolpe, in his admonition of Beinart, writes that “honest dissent” is necessary, and acknowledges that “Israel has sometimes done bad, misguided, even terrible things.” Challenges pervade the contemporary  discussion: Israel may have the right to build settlements, but does that make the settlements unequivocally moral? Is every military maneuver in the state’s best interest? Should the Haredi population always have such an overwhelming say in decisions of governance?

It was at a pro-Israel conference last Spring that I brought up some of these questions with the Jewish father of a friend.

His response was vitriolic. “You think your views are valid?” he yelled, with more rebuke than wonder. “You’re just a naïve kid who’s read a few articles. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I was taken aback, but hardly surprised. It wasn’t the first time that a conversation of this sort had taken a turn for the worse. In many circles within the American Jewish community, much that verges on criticism of Israel is considered taboo. Those who call Netanyahu or Lieberman policies into question are often scolded with a vengeance.

There is a distinct and often forgotten line between self-loathing and self-serving.

Henry Kissinger may fall under the former category, while Israel supporters who dare to point out, with prudence, the state’s ill-considered decisions qualify as the latter. If Zionism is engrained in our collective identity, we carry a weighty responsibility to be our own watchdogs.

When we chide the Obama administration for one of its policies that we perceive as being contrary to American interest, we aren’t renouncing our American citizenship. Rather, we are exercising our democratic prerogative. Yet, for whatever reason, when the conversation moves to the Middle East, constructive criticism becomes synonymous with betrayal.

In truth, the American Jewish community’s criticism of Israel is not fully comparable to that of most other groups in most other countries. Examine Israel’s disparate function within the community of nations: The constituency of the United States or France, for most practical purposes, ends at the borders of Canada and Mexico. The constituency of a state founded on religious doctrine extends far beyond any geographical border.

But Israel is often labeled the only “true democracy” in its very unstable region. Democracy functions through constituent response; if constituents support the policies, they support the candidates. If they don’t, they do the reverse. Israeli citizens take advantage of democracy by voting. We make the best of a free and open Israel by voicing our opinions of which policies Netanyahu should keep, and which ones he should change. The American Jewish community, collectively, is a constituent of the State of Israel.

Peter Beinart’s public anxiety that ours may be “the generation that watches the dream of a democratic Jewish state die” seems not to be – at least linguistically – the sort of cautious rebuke that can elicit any sort of tangible response.

Daniel Gordis, the prominent commentator on Israel, compares Jews closed to criticizing Israel to parents who never critique their children: They’re in an unproductive covenant. Loving Israel, he recently wrote, “means loving unconditionally but knowing that love does not mean overlooking serious flaws.” Like effective parenting, our criticism needs to be present, but it must also be constructive and intentional.

Followers of the American Jewish relationship with Israel often argue that criticism of the Israeli government’s decisions should, for the most part, take place behind closed doors – outside the eye of public scrutiny. I agree; the Jewish State has no shortage of bad luck with the media. Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been called “Israel’s single most visible defender,” has written that this criticism must be proportional and contextual, asserting that “what is missing (from the equation of diplomatic criticism) is the comparable criticism of equal or greater violations by other countries and other groups.” The American Jewish community is safe in deciding to publicize its positive interactions with Israel and shroud its denunciations of the state. But the quiet steps we do take toward improving Israel (by way of expressions of dissatisfaction) must be real and palpable.

There is, as Rabbi Wolpe contends, “room for honest dissent.” When the Israeli government is wrong, we have a holy imperative to criticize it. Our criticism must be deliberate, constructive, specific, and concise, not categorical, nor arrogant, nor presumptuous; it must provide a foundation from which to build stronger policy, not tools with which to dismantle a nation. Our Jewish responsibility is to defend our only homeland. To criticize is to clarify, and clarification is – without doubt – a mechanism of defense.

An Inarticulate Outcry – Occupy Wall Street’s Most Obtrusive Roadblock

Without scrutiny or much thought, I can tell you that the Civil Rights movement fought for socioeconomic and legal equality for African-Americans. I can also tell you that the Arab Spring was the mobilization of citizens of Middle Eastern countries with the goal of overthrowing oppressive regimes. I can even tell you what the hippy movement stood for: harmony, cooperation, brotherly peace, and a bond with mother earth.

Most people could tell you all that.

It would take me a bit longer to explain what Occupy Wall Street is all about. About a month ago, a group of people who call themselves “the ninety-nine percent” began protesting in Manhattan. They’re still protesting, and they’ve permeated the country.

Movements for peace, for action, and for necessary, pragmatic, valuable, or morally imperative social change deserve support. A Steve Jobs truism has been playing on a loop on television sets all across the world throughout the past week: “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” And he was absolutely right.

But all of the people that Jobs was referring to – namely Einstein, King, Lennon, Ghandi, among other movers and shakers – were able to articulate the change that they were so vehemently pursuing. “We want change” will always ring hollow if it isn’t made clear what “we” want changed.

Occupy Wall Street’s website says this:

“Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.”

“To achieve our ends.” What are its ends? The above description of the movement is merely an explanation of its medium. And, moreover, what is it resisting? Social change in this country comes from an articulation of wants with the hope of reaching cooperation with the powers that be. Little can be built on the grounds of the inexplicable. Average citizens – others in the “ninety-nine percent” – are confused by Occupy Wall Street. Those in power who might affect change can’t, because the people on the ground aren’t meeting with them. Even the president himself, last week, struggled to answer a question about the movement’s motives because they are so ambiguous.

Read some quotes from OWS’s literature, its website, and speeches delivered at rallies:

“We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire.”

“The problem is the system that pushes you to give up. Beware not only of the enemies. But also of false friends who are already working to dilute this process.”

“The 1% has stolen this world. We will not allow this to occur.”

“I spent ten days in Liberty Plaza and all I got was this lousy democracy.”

By no means should we rule out Occupy Wall Street’s intentions, nor by any means should we deem it illegitimate. It very well may be an important movement, or at least an important outcry. But it is difficult to support something that you don’t understand. If their goal is to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation that will help shrink financial disparity, protesters should say so. If their goal is for banks to be regulated more stringently, protesters should say so.

Until Occupy Wall Street is able to articulate its goal – or even goals – beyond the bounds of being aware of “false friends,” not being afraid of really wanting what you desire, and not allowing others to “steal the world,” little will come of it, and those in power will continue to look upon it with bewilderment, confusion, and apathy.

Obama at AIPAC – The Speech that Worked (in Theory)

On Sunday morning, I arrived in Washington, DC with a medium-sized group of high school students for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – the United States’ pro-Israel lobby.

My views don’t always correlate to those of AIPAC. I often find myself questioning the lobby’s stringent and unbreakable conservative nature. But AIPAC itself is officially nonpartisan and its primary goal is to defend and protect the State of Israel and its policies – during every and any administration.

As a result, severe apprehension gripped the conference’s attendees when it was announced that President Obama would be a keynote speaker. In the wake of recent events, there had been much build-up to the speech – irritation from the American Jewish community as a result of the President speech Thursday and his word choice regarding Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (“pre-1967 borders”), excitement from my friends and classmates who eagerly awaited the unique opportunity to hear their President speak, and my unwavering anxiety and concern at the prospect of a room full of ten-thousand Jews hissing or booing at the Leader of the Free World.

Before Obama emerged on the garish AIPAC stage, a friend and I decided to make a bet on the language the President would use. “He’ll say ‘1967’,” my friend told me. “He’ll stick to the same language.” I was less sure. I told him that I thought Obama was at AIPAC to appease the Jewish community, to make up for Thursday’s speech, or to backpedal on the words he had chosen. The anxiety grew thicker – I could almost feel it in the air.

President Obama delivered an eloquent and meticulous address. As he approached the podium, he was met with gracious respect and cautious appreciation. He began by acknowledging universal truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the kind of statements thats the American Jewish community eats up like a fresh batch of cookies.

“A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of United States,” he said – and there was applause. He went on. “America’s commitment to Israel’s security also flows from a deeper place – and that’s the values we share.” More applause. Then, he asserted that he has “made the security of Israel a priority.” And, of course, more applause.

But once he’d warmed up the crowd, he cut to the chase. With absolute intrepidity and unmitigated integrity, Obama reaffirmed what he had defined as United States policy on Thursday: the 1967 borders of Israel should serve as a guideline for peace negotiations.

And the applause waned. But this time – during this speech – it was clear that the President had learned from his mistakes. He told the AIPAC audience that those who had reacted radically to his previous statement hadn’t been fully listening. “There was nothing particularly original in my proposal,” he said. “This basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties.”He asked the audience to listen to his proposal in context. He clarified that he didn’t only wish for Israel to revert back to previous borders, but that he believed that “mutually agreed upon swaps” were necessary.

The speech was a statement about the President’s resolve: it didn’t matter to whom he was speaking. He was there to deliver a message. It was clear that he knew that those who disagree or doubt him will never agree and will always doubt him. But “if there’s a controversy,” he affirmed, referring to his ‘1967’ statement “then, it’s not based in substance.” He did not appease the American Jewish community. He did not backpedal upon established US policy. With candor, with truth, and with poise, he stood before an unjustifiably irate crowd and proved exactly why their anger was groundless.

There Goes Democracy – What Happens Next?

In the heat of protest, the heavy weight of demand overrides reality. The incongruity of wants and desires outweigh what is within the realm of possibility. The whole event becomes more about the amount of protesters and signs than it does about who the protesters are, or what the signs say.

In Egypt, the medium — to invoke philosopher Marshall McLuhan — has become the message. The outside world — along with its mainstream media — has tried to align its own voice with that of the collective “protesters” in Egypt. And there lies the problem.

The booming voices of world leaders and media personalities call for us to do the “right” thing — the thing that is (or seems) most just, most righteous, or most revolutionary. But what happens when the “right” thing to do is not the pragmatic thing to do? Or when the sundry “right” choices contradict each other? We’re left with a paradox.

We want free elections, but we don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power. We want democracy, but we don’t want Mubarak to be voted out of office — we want him out now. We want civil democracy, but we also want to support the hoards of radical protesters who have, in essence, put Egypt’s day-to-day life on hold. It seems that the line between democracy and vigilante ousting is a fine one.

Is it up to the proverbial “we” to decide, though? Last time the United States chose to take out a foreign autocrat, we were left with two wars and six thousand fewer Americans. We do have responsibilities: to advocate for the silenced people of Egypt and other oppressed peoples around the world, to voice our own opinions about democracy and freedom, and certainly to be an international watchdog. That being said, it is not our place to aid in vigilante justice.

We want to act as the means. But to what end? If democracy blankets Egypt, free elections will be held; and it’s likely that the decidedly “wrong,” more oppressive party would take over — and there goes democracy. If the United States or the western world involves itself in the minutia of Egypt’s transition, then Egypt’s so-called “freedom” will be regulated by and dependent upon an entirely separate entity — and there goes democracy. If free elections are held, but the UN oversees them, and the “wrong” party wins election, then the UN — a body who has never been known to do anything immoral, right? — may affect the results — and there goes democracy.

While the world celebrates and excites over new beginnings and clean slates, I worry. At this point in a piece, I usually offer a solution to the problem I’m discussing. Today, I don’t have one. It’s a paradox, a fine line to tread, and a unstable question to which there is no definitive answer.

Egypt’s Moment – The Value of Transition in a Chaotic World

Havdallah is the Jewish ceremony that marks the end of one week and the beginning of the next. Its rituals — lighting a candle, feeling its warmth, smelling a spice, sipping grape juice, hearing a melody — are intended to signify and exercise each of our senses. As a result of the nature of the service, I find myself more aware of my actions and surroundings during havdallah than at almost any other time of the week.

Havdallah is about transition. It allows us to absorb the last lingering moments of the Sabbath and transition away from it with deliberate ease and contemplative serenity. It moves us to acknowledge and soak in the value of one moment while eagerly awaiting the next.

As my family and I huddled around the havdallah candle Saturday night — its tiny flame illuminating the entire room — I wasn’t living in the moment; I was living in the shadows of another, more chaotic moment. I was somewhere else.

I could hear the cries and screams of a nation in crisis — a people suppressed of its liberties. I could see an overwhelming police force whose relentless beatings caused the streets to run red with blood. I could smell the gunpowder and feel the smoke settling into the thick Middle Eastern air. I could taste the bitter acrimony in the atmosphere; the hesitance and aversion to progress.

The massive riots and inevitable revolutions that are popping up around the world, — Tunisia, Egypt, and perhaps Yemen — illustrate that transition is transcendence. After being stuck in a tired cycle for too many moons, too many years, too many generations, it takes a cataclysmic event to wipe a slate clean. Change can be purifying. The rebellions, the revolutions, the radical upswings that have arisen are stressful and terrifying — but they are also cleansing.

The fear, of course, lies within the ambiguity of where that transitional path may lead us. As a result of the current Egyptian revolution, a paralyzing and earth shattering alarm has sounded for the State of Israel (and its supporters worldwide). If Egypt — one of Israel’s only allies in the region — loses its current leadership and drops its sympathetic policies, who and what will take over? If the nation falls into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, what will become of Israel’s fate?

No one knows. But it’s significant to note that in 1967, Israel brought down eleven belligerent Arab armies to protect and maintain its own sovereignty — and Egypt was one of those armies. That war became known (among Arab States) as an-Naksah, or ‘The Setback.’ In 1973, the narrative was different, but the result was similar.

Since its inception, Israel has been surrounded by more than a dozen countries whose leaders have craved nothing more profoundly than the Jewish State’s demise. Now, that count may increase. Is that going to significantly (or further) threaten Israel’s survival?

It all reminds me of one of the most powerful lines ever written into the script of the West Wing. In the heat of a tough military decision, the White House Chief of Staff turns to the president, exasperated, and shouts, “We don’t always know how it ends!” The future will always be enigmatic. In the meantime, however, we can relish the freedom and opportunity provided by this moment of transition.

A friend of mine recently made his Facebook status, “With rebellion, awareness is born.” And he’s right. Call it irony, but this moment is Egypt’s havdallah. Transition and change heighten and exacerbate our senses. When the future is unclear, when the present is tense, and when the past seems obsolete, we feel everything more deeply. If that momentary balance between possibility and digression is otherwise meaningless, let it act as an opportunity for a heightened sense of self-awareness, and a chance for the world to weigh in on a problematic leader whose policies are long overdue for criticism and denunciation.

A Shattered Cultural Taboo

Left-wing political commentator Juan Williams was fired from his post at National Public Radio Wednesday night for a remark he made which was perceived by many to be insolent and politically incorrect. During an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show on Monday, Williams, O’Reilly, and Mary Katherine Ham debated about the dubbed “The War against Islam.”

“Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said. “But when I get on a plane, I gotta tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

That last sentence, unmistakably, was what cost Williams his job. His remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices,” NPR wrote in a memo that explained the firing. From one point of view, several left-wingers expressed outrage at Williams. From another, conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin called for NPR’s funding to be cut as a result of Williams’ termination.

But were Williams’ remarks also inconsistent with American mainstream standards and practices? Did he cross a red line that few daring Americans cross? Did he set himself apart from the fray–admitting a type of innate racial skepticism and distrust that is unique to his own conscience? I think not.

Williams’ inborn action of profiling that is now being tossed around in a very public arena is the same action that happens in the minds and souls of Americans every day. This basic xenophobia doesn’t only take form in airports (for people of Arab descent), it also seeps through in legislative and cultural trends. The Arizona immigration law, while it has nothing to do with Islam or the Middle East, exemplifies a quintessential American concept: we are afraid of the unfamiliar.

Juan Williams got fired for violating a supposed cultural taboo. But the cultural taboo is only a facade. Racial profiling is like gossip–society claims to frown upon it, yet everyone does it.

Sure, America is still the “city on a hill,” and in many respects a beacon of light to the rest of the world. But this exclusionist notion of categorical American supremacy needs to end. We use racial and ethnic profiling as a subconscious exertion of our ultranationalism.

And if racial profiling is a passive action, there’s a coherent method of combatting it: a commanding awareness of our actions.