Israel, the Special Relationship, and 2008 (Part II)
States and Israel do indeed have a “special relationship,” and this
likely will continue for the foreseeable future. Both nations are modern
democracies, and Israel is the only such country in the Middle East. A
country as deeply religious as the U.S. (especially Jews but also
Christians and even Muslims) feel a special kinship with the Holy Land.
And with a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran now threatening to “wipe Israel off
the map,” U.S. backing of Israel is as important as ever.
most major politicians in the United States are vocally supportive of
Israel, with opinions generally running the gamut from 100 percent
support of Israel, to the belief that Israel is right, but would be best
served by making peace with the Palestinians. Outside of the Chomskyite/academic
left and the Buchananite right, there are very few major political
organs in the U.S. who vocally oppose Israel, completely back the
Palestinians, and/or wish for the state of Israel to cease to exist.
In the last
two administrations, the gamut has run from Bill Clinton (who presided
over the Oslo Accords peace agreement and tried to push for a final
agreement in 2000) to George W. Bush (who has nearly always taken
Israel’s side publicly and refused to meet with Palestinian leaders).
not quite so simple: Clinton said in an interview after leaving office
that he loved former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin “more than
I’ve ever loved any other man,” while Bush was a strong supporter of the
circa-2002 “Road Map to Peace” and of Palestinian elections.
opposition to Israel, though, is beginning to gain momentum in some
circles. The anti-Israel side has gotten quite a bit of attention in the
past few months, with the publication of two major works: An essay
called “The Israel Lobby” by academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen
Walt, and the book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” by former president
question of the “Israel Lobby,” there is no question that one exists. In
fact, those in the United States arguing in favor of Israel’s position (AIPAC,
the Anti-Defamation League, etc.) have done a great job arguing their
case before the American people, achieving a level of bipartisan
consensus in favor of their position that most interest groups would
there “no debate allowed” on the conflict, as Carter, Mearsheimer and
Walt have argued? That, to be polite, is nonsense. Israel/Palestine is
one of the most contentious, often-argued issues in American life, and
to argue that either side “hasn’t been allowed” to debate is nothing
short of absurd. Try visiting a college campus or an independent
after all, pulled an O.J.-like move to block the publication of Carter’s
book. No one in the U.S. has been shunned, incarcerated or killed for
their views on the conflict – a luxury they may not have an enjoyed in,
say, other parts of the Middle East. (Though, when the former president
spoke recently at my alma mater Brandeis, he was asked to debate Alan
Dershowitz, but a student activist was quoted in the school newspaper as
saying that “because there is no debate” about Israel/Palestine, Carter
should not have to debate.)
furthermore, no legitimate figure is denying Palestinian suffering. In
fact, no less a neocon than Paul Wolfowitz, one of the principal
architects of the Iraq war, did exactly that at a 2002 rally in
Washington – and was booed for his troubles.
Sen. Barack Obama pointed out before AIPAC last week that no one in the
Mideast is suffering more than the Palestinians, was he wrong? The
question is really only important if you believe – and I don't – that
the party that suffers most wins. Palestinian suffering is certainly
real, and greater on average than that of the Israelis. But it doesn't
mean they're right, it doesn't mean they deserve everything they ask for
and it doesn't mean it's all the Israelis' fault.
Palestinians have suffered because Arafat stole from them for decades,
because they've embraced noxious ideologies from Marxism to jihadism to
a mixture of the two, and because (as we all know) they "never miss an
opportunity to miss an opportunity,” most recently by electing a full-on
terrorist organization (Hamas) to represent them as their governmental
leaders. And until all that changes, the suffering won't end, occupation
or no occupation.
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