Every day I get letters asking me why I have remained an adviser to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., when he holds such extreme, one-sided views on Israel and Palestine. Some think that, perhaps, because I am Jewish I am unwilling to see that Israel is reenacting a dilute version of its people’s own historical trauma. Others know that I am well aware of the oppression of the Palestinians, and think I have simply compromised my integrity.
Thank you, profoundly, for this. Personally, I feel so saturated with the horrible ideological fervour that radiates now from every possible difference of opinion that I wish I had the perfect 'ears' I could plug to block it all out. But I don't. So I want to know where I'm wrong. I'm hungry to know where I'm wrong. Staying 'outside' the 'corrupt' system to remain 'pure', to be some kind of 'shining' example that supposedly compensates somehow for the pitiful impotence of not being able to make the world more beautiful, has driven me down to the nub. I want no more of it. You are showing the way, Charles, and I salute your courage and integrity.
As one of the people who wrote to you...thank you, Charles, for addressing this.
There is no question of RFK Jr's humility. The wait-and-see question is: What is the deeper, underlying motivation for his position and messaging on Israel; and, if this is a "blind spot" or subtle hypocrisy, is there a total willingness to see it, and not be played or playing from a purely political motivation.
Thank you again for doing this work.
Thank you, Charles, for this explanation and clarification. As a Jewish American who supports the cause of Palestinian human rights, I wondered how your support of RFKJr. aligned with the candidate's blind support of immoral, unjust and cruel Zionism that denies those human rights. You explained your position eloquently and convincingly. Step by step, we move toward the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
Thank you for staying on board the campaign despite the pressures and likely the harassment you are receiving. It is essential, for all of us, that a diversity of views is represented there.. If you were to leave it would diminish that hope. Asking you to leave the campaign based on RFK Jr's Israel/Palestine stance would be similar to people on "the other side" asking RFK Jr. to disassociate from you for your stance on the issue. That would be unacceptable..all of us can agree.
Like you, many of us believe, and not just hope, that RFK Jr. is and will be open to listening to all sides of this issue, taking a more critical view of it.
One simple question that comes to mind when I ponder this perhaps aptly named blindspot in RFK Jr.'s rhetoric (rhetoric also being also an apt term for how he uncharacteristically approaches the issue) is "Is Israel above reproach?"
There can only really be one simple answer to that question although that answer opens up a pandora's box of chronically complicated issues which have yet to be solved but like you I believe the archetype for the solution already exists...
The simple answer to that question for most and especially RFK Jr, with his brilliant and compassionate mind/heart has to be be a definitive "no", for none of us, including our representative governments, are above or beyond reproach.
And from that answer perhaps a fruitful dialogue of mutual understanding will develop..
Thank you again Charles.... for your wisdom and perseverance, for your courage and compassion
Iranian Born US Citizen living in Canada
Dear Ant trapped in Charles' keyboard.
Re: To attain this possibility would require both vision and will, since all parties are at this point deeply inebriated in stories of their own righteousness. It will require the full deployment of the most advanced technologies of peace, such as the truth & reconciliation processes pioneered in South Africa and Rwanda. It will require courage and leadership, as peace-building always starts with an act of trust. Muslim leaders throughout the region will make statements of welcome to the Jews"
All good. But it will require more. It will require the break-up of whatever cabal of forces has coalesced to create the current state of things we call reality. Those behind the curtain who clearly have an anti-human agenda and are brilliant at keeping us focused on and embittered towards each other as they perpetuate the endless divisions.
The power structures have been captured. People need to make them irrelevant. That's where our future starts, when we walk away from the current systems. IMHO.
Thanks. Good luck getting out.
I'm very glad you chose to address this issue, because I have been wondering a lot about it. I am one of those who initially liked a lot of what I heard from RFK Jr. but have definitively soured on him because of his stance on Israel/Palestine. There is one aspect of the situation that I do not feel you have addressed. It is one thing to disagree with someone on a difficult issue but decide that the totality of the relationship outweighs that one issue. That I could accept. What I cannot accept is the fact that RFK Jr. regularly LIES about this issue. He completely misrepresents the facts. You say that your hope is that he will learn and evolve. But I don't believe that he simply doesn't know the truth. I believe he knows the truth and deliberately misrepresents it. That means I can't simply accept that we have a difference of opinion and move on, because if he is regularly lying it means I can't believe what he says about anything. For that reason, while I really appreciate you confronting this issue head-on, I don't find your explanation fully satisfying.
I agree with your decision. I think Kennedy is capable of changing his mind in the face of more information, may it be so. And in the more beautiful world I want to see manifest, there is no longer these type of divisions, but rather talking issues through until we all see the deeper truth.
How refreshing and healthy that RFK won’t exist in the echo chamber of former presidents and their advisors. We call out the Emperor and his new clothes.
I have no hesitation in staying subscribed. Your courage is rare.
Thank you for this wonderful and deep article. I grew up in the Middle East and have seen the oppression and suffering of the Palestinian people first hand. It is the one thing I have seriously disagreed with RFK, Jr. on. But I also see in him the traits you describe--humility, a willingness to hear from all sides and actually reconsider long held beliefs, the ability of a serious lawyer to rigorously challenge his own assumptions and understanding, no need to read off cue cards and parrot tropes, an authentic and deeply humane person.
Your earlier piece on the path not taken in the 60s was a major reason I realized that I could support RFK with conviction. He is unlike any politician I’ve ever seen. The endless demonizing and guilt by association is no way to continue and the road we are on leads to an America--and a world--I never dreamed could exist.
I often hear the same deflections- There are worse oppressors out there. It’s like a kid saying “but they did it too” in order to avoid consequences. The consequences of Israel’s blatant ethnic cleansing (and all of the war crimes and human rights violations that involves) is that it should be held accountable without excuses.
Unfortunately, your vision didn’t mention a right of return for the people the land was stolen from. It will need more than apologies, rather lifting of the siege and blockade, and disempowering the institution and society that enable the horror committed daily. In the modern capitalist world that Israel very much is part of, an effective way is through boycott, divestment, and sanctions.
It is not as simple as guilty by association- the question is whether or not one boldly calls out and criticizes the position of support of such a violent oppressor that clearly states their intentions to achieve ethnic supremacy and makes no apologies for the terror this requires. The vision many people want to see come to pass of a true democratic place where the historical diversity is respected and upheld won’t come without radical words and action- we're not talking about association with just anyone- this person could potentially come to an extreme amount of power and so should be held to even higher questioning and expectation.
I think radical compassion for the kids missing limbs or eyes, and suffering ptsd from army raids, bombardments, settler attacks would sound more like unapologetic criticisms for the guilty and anyone defending the guilty.
When we vote for a president, we don't vote for a platform, we vote for a person. RFK Jr. has exhibited the personal leadership qualities that are likely to help this country. Most importantly, he has integrity and the desire to heal wounds of division. His difference of position on some political issues of importance is less important to me than his character. I agree with Charles. Remaining by the right person, even if that person doesn't agree with you on everything, is the best choice. If not, the divorce rate would be 100%.
Here's an excerpt from a Substack article from Chris Hedges.:
"To stand up to Israel has a political cost few, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., are willing to pay. But if you do stand up, it singles you out as someone who puts principles before expediency, who is willing to fight for the wretched of the earth and, if necessary, sacrifice your political future to retain your integrity. Kennedy fails this crucial test of political and moral courage."
-- From -https://chrishedges.substack.com/p/robert-f-kennedy-jr-the-israel-lobbys
Hedges basically describes a situation in which, in general, American politicians tremble at the idea of expressing anything which could be construed as favoring the Palestinians while siding against Israel. To do so, according to Hedges, is akin to political suicide.
I don't know if Hedges is correct on this matter. Maybe he is.
But I'm told that to take a degrowth stance ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth ) in American politics, at just about any scale of government, would be (at least generally) a good way to end one's political career (before or after it had started). This I believe. Indeed, I believe taking ethically appropriate stances in politics will, more often than not, ruin one's chances of taking and holding office. And this isn't just because of popular opinion, but at least as much about the Machinery of media, of the political parties ... and other institutions which shape outcomes.
When we realize that what is right and just is, more often than not, not "politically possible" within the current state of the practice of politics, there is no choice (apart from departing from political engagement altogether) than to radically re-imagine and re-think the philosophy and practice of politics. And this is what I've been doing for years now, concluding that we require a radical collective departure from the entrenched traditions which keep producing a basically intolerable world which is heading toward becoming uninhabitable.
This re-imagining and re-thinking of politics is, as I see it, the most important art form on Earth (or, rather, in Earth -- since we live in the layer of Earth called atmosphere) today. But few of us are such artists, yet.
I'm grateful to you, Charles, for being willing to take a stand within the Machine. I'll take my stand outside of it, and may we meet in the middle in our common humanity.
A good essay, Charles. Well said, and just the answer I would hope for.
"A man does what he must—in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis of all human morality." -JFK
I love this post Charles! Indeed, invoking true peace, a forgiving and releasing of the “us versus them” paradigm and all its associated judgements and continued divisions is the only clear solution I can feel too... hopelessly idealistic? Perhaps. Am I mocked often for my apparent naïveté? Frequently. But your resolve to keep your heart open, stand in the winds of discord and judgement and call in for peace despite the push-back is inspiring and couldn’t have come at a better time.
Thank you for your continued self-reflection, courage and invitations towards unity and peace.
I've lived in Israel 23 years and understand how easy it is to form "intelligent" viewpoints based on academia and other sources which can actually be very far from reality. Your description here of Israel and how you frame the oppression of the Palestinians is from both my academic background in international relations and having lived here 23 years way way from the actual realities here. I'm sad to say this. Even sadder to read this post as it's the first time in many years following and reading you that causes me to question :(