Nathan over at Moral Contradictions sums up accurately why I’ve been pretty silent lately. I, too. am overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed by the absurdity of our country’s foreign policy and overwhelmed when I think of what it portends for my children’s future. Our reaction to the latest Middle East War is absolutely terrifying. We have again elevated the most extreme elements of the Muslim world by our inability to see the big picture.
The Bush administration’s view is that “we are at war with terrorists,” as if describing the tactics of the most radical Islamists accurately describes what is happening. A war against terrorism implies that the other side is waging a war for terrorism. They are not. They have goals that are served by their terrorism, and it is those goals, if not the tactics, that are shared by many Arab Muslims. If the goal is the destruction of Israel, we should oppose it. But most Muslims in the Arab world, weary of 60 years of fighting, would be willing to accept Israel’s existence in exchange for a land for the Palestinians and help to restore their economy. Now we must add Lebanon to the list of economies that must be restored. Lebanon, the one democracy bordering Israel that did not attack it during the 1967 war.
This conflict is reported as one that began with the capture of two Israeli soldiers. The other day a Lexis -Nexis search found more than 40 stories over the past month in The Washington Post alone that referred to those two soldiers. Most of those references pegged that act as the start of the conflict, while ignoring even the short-term larger picture.
On June 24, the day before Hamas’ cross-border raid, Israel made an incursion of its own, capturing two Palestinians that it said were members of Hamas (something Hamas denied—L.A. Times, 6/25/06). This incident received far less coverage in U.S. media than the subsequent seizure of the Israeli soldier; the few papers that covered it mostly dismissed it in a one-paragraph brief (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 6/25/06), while the Israeli taken prisoner got front-page headlines all over the world. It’s likely that most Gazans don’t share U.S. news outlets’ apparent sense that captured Israelis are far more interesting or important than captured Palestinians.
The situation in Lebanon is also more complicated than its portrayal in U.S. media, with the roots of the current crisis extending well before the July 12 capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. A major incident fueling the latest cycle of violence was a May 26, 2006 car bombing in Sidon, Lebanon, that killed a senior official of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group allied with Hezbollah. Lebanon later arrested a suspect, Mahmoud Rafeh, whom Lebanese authorities claimed had confessed to carrying out the assassination on behalf of Mossad (London Times, 6/17/06).
Israel denied involvement with the bombing, but even some Israelis are skeptical. “If it turns out this operation was effectively carried out by Mossad or another Israeli secret service,” wrote Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s top-selling daily (6/16/06; cited in AFP, 6/16/06), “an outsider from the intelligence world should be appointed to know whether it was worth it and whether it lays groups open to risk.”
Meanwhile, voices cry out for a solution to the real source of the conflict, voices such as Brent Scowcroft, Jimmy Carter, and Abdullah Gul, the foreign minister of another U.S. friend we are alienating, Turkey.
Yet this administration continues to talk about not giving in to the terrorists, without recognizing, let alone address, the larger concerns of Palestinians.
Driving the Bush administration’s policy is both this simplistic view of the Middle East crisis and craven politics that is sure to fail.
Republicans are hoping a strong defense of Israel translates into greater support among Jewish voters this fall, but the biggest political benefits are likely to come long after the 2006 campaign concludes, according to political and demographic experts studying Jewish voting trends.
The Jewish group proving most receptive to Republican overtures over the past decade is among the smallest: Orthodox Jews. Right now, they account for roughly 10 percent of the estimated 5.3 million Jews in the United States, hardly enough to tip most elections.
No matter the size or the politics of younger Jews today, the larger picture shows that American Jews are, on the whole, not to be had at such a shallow and cheap price.
The attachment of American Jews to Israel has weakened measurably in the last two years, a recent survey demonstrates, continuing a long-term trend visible during the past decade and a half.
The weakening is apparent in almost every measure of Jewish connection to Israel except for interest in travel to Israel, which showed a slight uptick, and a handful of others that were unchanged. Respondents were less likely than in comparable earlier surveys to say they care about Israel, talk about Israel with others or engage in a range of pro-Israel activities.
Strikingly, there was no parallel decline in other measures of Jewish identification, including religious observance and communal affiliation.
This is from a survey over a year old, but for years, surveys have shown that American Jews are not knee-jerk supporters of every tactic of the Israeli government.
Jews in the United States and Israel sharply disagree over the creation of an independent Palestinian state, with American Jews heavily in favor of the idea and Israelis much more deeply divided, according to new polls conducted by the Los Angeles Times and Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
American Jews approve of an independent Palestinian state, 68% to 19%. Israelis, by contrast, split, with 44% approving and 49% disapproving, including 34% who strongly oppose the idea. In both countries, more than two-thirds of those polled believe that a Palestinian state is likely to be created whether they like it or not.
But craven politics is what you can expect from this administration, and alas, from most Democrats, Congressman Jim Moran being the notable exception. His support for a more equitable Middle East solution, of course, has earned him the wrath of some Jewish organizations’ leaders. Which is probably why more people don’t speak out against Israel’s action, such as this completely counter-productive onslaught in Lebanon.
Is Newt Gingrich right? Are we at World War III’s doorstep? If so, once Iran gets the bomb, does anyone think there will anything but losers?
As long as we look at the Middle East as a conflict as being “against terrorism” and little else, we doom our children to a world where no one anywhere is free from fear.