For most of my life I believed that the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel was analogous to that of an eccentric scientist/inventor and a superhero. America has, and has had for the last six decades, an obscenely large and powerful defense industry with a captive market for its products. The Department of Defense will buy just about anything at the drop of a hat as long as it's newer, somehow More Advanced, and either kills people or keeps Americans from getting killed a little better than whatever is in use at the time. But the problem, frankly, is that the U.S. just doesn't get that many chances to try out all these fabulous toys. I know that sounds silly given our fondness for military engagement since WWII – Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq I and II, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, etc. etc. – but the defense industry is so adept at selling new product to the DoD that even all these conflicts aren't enough to keep up.

We can test this stuff in the Nevada desert, of course, but it's just not the same as using it on brown people and/or Commies. This is where Israel comes in. Those sonsabitches are always fighting, frequently with weapons of American vintage. So the DoD was like the Whistler to Israel's Blade. "Hey guys, I invented this new (whatever). Give it a try tonight and let me know if it works, OK?"

Pictured: Golda Meir

Since the George W. Bush era, however, I realize that I have been wrong. Our special pals arrangement with Israel is based mostly on the fact that both nations have the same fundamental view of international law and foreign policy: exceptionalism. One set of rules for Me, a different set for Thee. Our motives are pure and thus Our actions justified; Your motives are evil and thus so are Your actions. That's really what connects us. Not the pro-Israel urgings of the Religious Right, not the AIPAC-led Israel lobby (what foreign nation doesn't lobby in Washington?), not the common enemy, and certainly not an American desire to stand up for a country we didn't care about until the Soviet Union started handing out MiGs like candy in the Arab world. America and Israel just fundamentally see the world similarly.

Despite the close ties at present, even America has gotten weary of our Special Friend lately. George W. Bush expressed frustration, as did his predecessor and successor. Israel, for its part, has seemingly been engaged in a contest since 2005 to see how quickly it can make its long-time supporters stagger away mumbling "Jesus, what a bunch of assholes" under their breath. I actually thought that this Gaza kidnapping/boarding/shooting incident would inspire some kind of moderation from Israel and the pro-Israel people in the blogosphere. You know, something like "Man, this doesn't look good. Maybe we should chill out for a few days." That would seem like a good reaction to boarding a group of ships full of humanitarian aid (not to mention 25 EU parliament members) and killing a bunch of people. I was quite wrong (and that's one of the saner right-wing commentaries).

"They attacked us," the Israelis say, perhaps unintentionally parroting what the U.S. military and private contractors say whenever they gun down a group of Iraqi civilians. And that's the end of the discussion. We decided that we were threatened and we reacted with what we defined as the appropriate response. We have thoroughly investigated the matter and determined that we have done nothing improper. Here, these are the pen knives, metal rods, and slingshots (fucking slingshots!) with which they were "armed", thus justifying our use of automatic weapons. Does this not sound like an argument that Washington policymakers could love? And as always, Israel has the luxury of deflecting any criticism of its government with the pathetic, tired recourse to accusations of antisemitism.

As the last 10 years made clear with the United States, the world can no longer tolerate one set of international laws for Israel and another for the other 191 countries. Their foreign policy ranges from the counterproductive (Hmm, I wonder if strangling Gaza with a blockade is somehow making Hamas stronger there?) to the indefensible. I claim no expertise in Middle Eastern affairs and I recognize the overwhelming complexity of the cultural, religious, and military history of the warring parties. Nonetheless, it strikes me as ridiculous to see the Western governments, and particularly mine, tiptoeing around the obvious. This shit isn't helping. It's driving the odds of peaceful coexistence close to zero. Like the U.S., Israel usually adopts the "We don't care if anyone else likes us" attitude, which strikes me as a very strange position for a country that very badly needs allies. Perhaps they actually mean "We don't care as long as Washington has our back." How much longer that will be the case remains to be seen, although I suspect that Americans will continue to see enough of themselves in Israel to stand by them as they drift farther away from a justifiably militant foreign policy and closer to state-sponsored terrorism.

49 thoughts on “FRIENDS IN DEED”

  • It really does seem that Israel can no longer act in its own self-interest. This flotilla raid was all id — a violent, reflexive response to what amounts to a grocery run.

    No thought of the potential the fallout. No larger strategy. No apparent consideration that, hey, these ships belong to key members of NATO. They didn't even wait for the flotilla to leave international waters, which would have made the optics of the raid somewhat more favorable to Israel.

    Over the past few years, I think the Israeli government has lost all appreciation for their nation's extremely precarious position.

  • While awaiting my latest order from the Tinfoil Millinery, it occured to me that hawks, from whatever country/party, may just want perpetual warfare.

    Not only does it fit with the worldview they hold, and the career they have built on that worldview, it also means they can write off anyone who disagrees with them as naive, and (should they continue) traitorous. Win!

  • The problem with this analysis is that there's nothing exceptional about exceptionalism. So you're reversing causality; Israel's psychotic behavior is simply taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the blanket U.S. support. If Israel didn't have this kind of protection, it would be forced to negotiate compromises in good faith, and work to de-escalate provocations rather than use every piddling little rocket as an excuse to open fire with artillery, drones, commandos, etc.

    I realize this isn't a pleasant thing to say, and it's controversial even among a lot of Israel's critics. But really the only credible explanation for U.S. policy towards Israel is the influence of the organized American Jewish community. They have a damn lot of money, a high level of organization, and a network of sympathizers throughout media and academia.

    Comparing the Israel lobby to other foreign lobbies is a bit of a joke; the Israel lobby isn't officially a foreign lobby at all, for one thing. While there are other ethnic lobbies, for example the Republic of China lobby, their influence pales in comparison. The Israel lobby is really the only foreign lobby that consistently manages to induce the U.S. to take positions that are clearly far outside any reasonable definition of its national interest.

    (The "strategic alliance" theory, put forward by Chomsky et al., doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. It really requires you to know almost nothing about the U.S. diplomatic and military posture in the Middle East. Israel has never once lifted a finger against a common enemy in the region, unless you count "common enemy" like Syria that are desperate for rapprochement with the U.S., but can't get it because of Israel. Indeed, Israel has been an impediment to U.S. efforts to deal with Middle Eastern enemies; the 1991 coalition was at risk of falling apart when Saddam started firing missiles at that country, the pro-American government in Lebanon was humiliated and seriously weakened after the Israeli bombing campaign of 2006, close U.S. allies like Egypt and Turkey continue to be destabilized in part by popular rage on behalf of the Palestinians, etc etc.)

    Obviously, it's not some kind of grand conspiracy where some elders meet in a smoke-filled room and decide what's going to be U.S. policy. Nor is it a problem that can or should be solved through any kind of discrimination. But, just as "color-blind" ideology tends to suffocate serious discussion of white privilege and structural racism, the blind insistence on denial of Jewish influence forestalls any credible analysis of the roots of U.S. Middle East policy. Leaving otherwise serious people to thrash around in the dark with hypotheses about mad scientists and cultural affinity.

  • Well, I agree with Dissenter, in part. AIPAC, among others, bankrolled a primary opponent against Cynthia McKinney who defeated her several years ago. The only reason, I think, McKinney got back into congress after that defeat, was the useful idiot who ran against her decided to run for senate instead the next time. She was no longer of use, though, so no money and no win. Granted McKinney is a nut and I don't know why she is no longer in congress but the message was loud and clear: speak against Israel and money will flow like wine to your opponent. This was a primary loss so I wouldn't be at all surprised if they actually recruited her and that she is an evangelical christian.

    I think you and Ed really underestimate the influence of the evangelicals and their complete and total devotion to Israel. Probably everyone who ever bought one of the "Left Behind" is on Israel's side as a matter of religious belief. I had a conversation with a friend who conceded every point I made against Israel's conduct. In the end she said it was for God to deal with them. Every other time Palin opens her mouth, she makes a statement of fealty to Israel; she displayed their flag in the executive office in Anchorage. The evangelicals manage the amazing feat of supporting Israel while despising Jews.

    I also think there is a lot of simple racism here: Most Israels are of European descent and Palestinians/Arabs are not. For people that everything through the prism of race, Israelis are white and Palestinians are brown.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    The American/Palestinian/Israeli trifecta in two sentences:

    Both sides are total dicks.

    But Jews don't blow up Americans.

  • Wisakedjak says:

    To be fair, the US and Israel aren't the only two countries with a sense of exceptionalism. Historically, Japan has considered itself better than everyone else and China referred to itself as the 'Middle Kingdom' – halfway between Earth and Heaven. This hasn't done much to unite any of these countries.

  • The evangelicals certainly are a troublesome element, but their influence should not be exaggerated. Israel is for them one issue out of many. They care more about "unborn babies," for example. They are disorganized and extremely corrupt. They are seen as a dangerous joke by the mainstream media, and generally don't bother to cultivate reasonable-sounding spokesmen who can present their case to fence sitters. Crucially, they aren't a swing vote, and their presence is concentrated in the Solid South, which is of little interest to Democrats.

    By contrast, the Jewish organizations are virtually single-issue, very well-organized, extremely well-funded, and largely incorruptible (except by Israeli intelligence, of course, but that's for love not money.) They are expert at presenting Israel's case in élite forums, and can leverage the disproportionate number of Jews among academics, pundits, and media owners to do so. It's not uncommon to see a Jewish TV reporter moderate a discussion between two Jewish commentators, or a back-and-forth argument between two Jewish newspaper columnists — when do you ever see that with evangelicals, or Arabs, or for that matter any other ethnic group besides white people?

    (Obviously, Jewish-Americans hold the same broad range of opinions as everyone else, and no particular opinion can be discredited merely by appeal to group characteristics of an opinion-holder. But the surveys I've seen indicate that U.S. Jewish opinion skews toward Israel far more than the overall public, which is admittedly more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, but predominately neutral. Unless there is some kind of special filter that causes Jewish-American voices in the mainstream media to be vastly non-representative of Jewish-American opinion overall, it follows that over-representation of Jews among the chattering class will tend to shift élite opinions towards Israel. Finally, my appeal to the influence of white people is meant to point out the similarities between Jewish privilege and White privilege, both of which I oppose, rather than to imply that somehow the Jews are mucking up our lovely White society.)

    Again, I know this is kind of unpleasant, and I totally disavow any conspiratorial or antisemitic interpretations. But so far as I can tell, what I'm saying is just factually accurate — U.S. policy in the Middle East is substantially guided by the American Jewish organizations.

  • Party with Tina says:

    I really liked this article, but I'm finding myself agreeing more with "dissenter." Exceptionalism is something found in every culture. Islam professes that it shall one day govern the entire world. I think you would be hard pressed to find any culture that isn't "Exceptional." I believe that America, by default, went ahead and supported Israel because we are a Christian nation and the bible prophesied the reformation of Israel in the end times. This being back in the time when serious Christians were still the overwhelming majority voice in all public discourse. Since then this pressure has splintered with mainstream Evangelicals being the last major remnant of that old voice. These people are a minority, but a large number of Liberals, and the vast majority of "swing voters" have very "Hawkish" attitudes on issues of the Middle East. Including Barrack Obama, who in my opinion would NEVER have been elected without taking that route, due to the issue.

    As a side-note, terrorism is fought due to cultural differences, that don't exist in such a glaring way with Israel. If we consider the "War On Terror" a cultural conflict, then Israel is our only cultural ally in the region. Judaism being the basis of Christianity, being the basis of all Western Culture.

  • Erm, Judaism/Christianity aren't the basis of all Western culture. Sorry to nitpick, I just hate when people make statements like "we are a Judeo-Christian" nation. We're not. We're more Greco-Roman, thank God.

  • Ed,

    I sincerely appreciate your approach on this matter and you appeal to reason in war but, as a retired military officer, I can assure you, from the depth of my soul and all others who send our own people into harms way to achieve military victory, logic has very little to do with anything.

    The blockade on the Gaza strip has been in place for two years. Blockades serve one purpose: To starve out the enemy and bring about attrition. This is the modern version of siege warfare in castles in European the middle ages. They also only work when enforced and the fact that a single person from the mostly Turkish Merchant Marine Fleet is still alive is testament to the rule of law. Seriously, Israel had every right under international law to sink every last vessel.

    America and Israel are living in a time when we are not only the most bad ass bullies on the block but we're also itching to sodomize your mom while you watch because, seriously, what the fuck are you going to do about it?

    Israel, in particular, are a bunch of swaggering fucks. Who else in their region has the absolutest latest state of the art weapons and aviation not to mention fucking NUKES that all of their neighbors lack?

    OK, I've dropped my initial take on Israel, but also understand that they are more like America than any nation I have ever visited. They're, as a core, smart, determined and dedicated to personal sacrifice that no other nation on the planet exhibits except for your dumb (American) asses.

    Like it or not, we have funded, trained, and indoctrinated the Israelis into following our lead mantra of "Eat a dick, what the fuck are you going to do about it?"

    Palestinians, who I personally favor, seriously need to come to terms with the situation. Israel is always going to exist (or at least as long as you do.) You need to deal with the fact that you live on the holy of holies for all for the big 3 monotheistic religions (eat a dick, Mecca) and accept an equal place in the country. Your situation is fucked up but seriously, what will it take? I'll send $50 your way to have you fit in? Deal?

  • To Dissenter,

    You are an exceptionally literate person and my thanks go out to you but your bias still remains. The "white person" claim is what ultimately defeated your argument. This blog, along with most higher level academia, doesn't really coinsider race as a valid contaminent of thoght.

  • My last word on this matter…

    "Three Cupsff Tea" by Greg Mortenson should be required reading for every ROTC candidate. The rest of you should read it too. I makes more sense of military waste than you can possibly understand.

  • 1) The U.S. and Israel certainly don't have the market cornered on believing our ways are the best ways.

    2) I can't figure out what the heck happened with the Israeli raid. Was it bad intelligence? Good intelligence (and we haven't gotten the right story, yet)? An act of state-sponsored terrorism?

    For that matter, if Israel says there's a blockade, wouldn't you expect them to enforce it?

    Why does Israel want a blockade (rather than a checkpoint to prevent the importing of weaponry, which makes more sense to me)?

    3) I also find it interesting that most people like to take sides in Israel/Palestine-trans-Jordan. More interesting is that they tend to fall down on Republican/Democrat lines. At the same time, Jews tend to be Democrats. [Which makes the whole "antisemitism" thing even more puzzling. What's wrong with Kansas?]

  • I've spent a fair bit of time there since the age of 18, each visit is more depressing than the last. It's as if the entire country is under some sort of sliding scale of mental illness, involving extreme paranoia and violent revenge fantasies.

    They have become what they despise, and cannot, will not, ever see it.

  • Also, why not disable the rudder or propellers and tow the stranded craft back to Cyprus, or if necessary, Ashdod? Why board a chain of vessels containing peace activists and 25 EU parliamentarians? Because they can, because they're bullies, and because they know no-one will do a damned thing about it. Plus ca change…

  • @Nunya, re: "Seriously, Israel had every right under international law to sink every last vessel. "

    What part of international law gives Israel the right to sink non-military vessels delivering humanitarian aid in international waters?

  • Israel has long since moved beyond an isolated republic set up as a haven for oppressed Jews to an aggressive, expansionist regional empire- just as Judea was back in the days of King David.
    The people running Israel still have the psychology that they are the put upon underdog, which gives them justification to massacre anyone they percieve as the Other. Combine that with one of the most powerful militaries in the world and you have some extremely dangerous people.

  • As someone else said on another website: the oppressed have become the oppressor. I'm anti-Israel/anti-zionist but if it makes people feel better they can label me an anti-semite. I'm sick & tired of Israel claiming victimhood when they are actively killing off another race. As far as I can tell, sanctions & embargoes don't work other than to harm the innocent; it won't result in the masses turning on the group who brought it on, in this case Hamas. I also don't understand why the Palestinians are expected to passively allow Israel to steal their land & subjugate them. If the U.S. had land stolen from us, would we be labeled terrorists if we tried to resist with guns, bombs, etc.?

    I was hoping that the current administration would lessen U.S. support of Israel considerably but as long as Americans are all about greed; it's not going to happen.

  • @ Prudence – It's as if the entire country is under some sort of sliding scale of mental illness, involving extreme paranoia and violent revenge fantasies.

    Add and shitty reality TV to that sentence and I believe that it perfectly describes the cause and status of current U.S. societal decline.

  • Nunya, they have the right to enforce a blockade in international waters, but that raises the larger question of whether the blockade is legitimate (which, given their unwillingness to admit that it is an act of war and they are an occupying power in Gaza under the Conventions, it isn't) and more importantly the Can/Should question.

    Having the Right to do something is a very poor excuse for doing it.

  • How will our NATO ally Turkey respond? It was an attack on their ships. With an armed naval escort next time, if there is a next time? As for Israel, after the USS Liberty, do they have any respect for US sensibilities at all?

  • "The Law allows what Honor forbids."

    While I agree with Ed's statements about exceptionalism, I want to point out two things: first, that whatever else Israel was, there is a reason the Soviet Union was so quick to support the establishment of the nation and to support partition. This supported their policy of dividing territories and maintaining friction between neighbors. There is a lot more to this, but I just see so much of the current problem as carefully sown strife leftover from the Soviets, grown and burgeoning, and serving the cause of a dead enemy.

    Second: Israel has worked against our interests for a long time (indifferently rather than deliberately in most cases, I think) , and many of Israel's uglier actions and positions have been underreported or unreported in the U.S. I understand there ain't no one here 'cept us exceptionalists, but the fact that we try so very hard to buddy up to a country that does not give a damn whether we sink or float is ridiculous.

    I don't assume the policies of the government are a full and accurate representation of the people of Israel, any more than the Bush cabinet spoke for me, but I hope they realize that when their behavior is against us (as well as illegal and inhumane) that we should not be asked to endorse it. If only they were interested in a working convivencia rather than this self-righteous turf war, they might have a chance.

  • CaptBackslap says:

    apusgov: the Turkish government has, in fact, promised that future ships will have an escort from the Turkish navy.

  • We realized that the flotilla of ships trying to reach Gaza was a provocation. No one realized how heavily they were armed. Five of the ships were boarded by the naval commando in the early hours of this morning and surrendered without resistance. The ships were taken to Ashdod, and the food they were carrying will be sent to Gaza, which as we know receives daily supplies of food, electricity and other essentials from the

  • Noone has mentioned Galid Shalit who was abducted in a cross-border raid almost 4 years ago. Since then he is being held by Hamas in Gaza. No one knows his condition, because contrary to international law no neutral organization has been allowed to pay him a humanitarian visit.

  • the “Zionist entity” it refuses to recognize. When the commando boarded the sixth ship, the Marmara, they faced armed resistance. The gunmen – many of whom were clearly prepared to be “shahidin,” martyrs – jumped on them in an organized lynch and started to stab them and beat them with clubs, knives and metal poles. After they grabbed one of our soldiers and threw him overboard, and started shooting the other soldiers with his rifle, they had no alternative but to open fire to protect themselves. In such a situation, it is surprising there were so few casualties. About ten IDF soldiers were injured, some seriously.

  • Does anyone here doubt that if Israel were overrun that every Jew throat would be slit (after the obligatory rape and torture) from the Lebanese and Syrian borders down to the Wadi in the Sinai? With the roles reversed in the "occupied" territories I find Israeli behavior quite restrained. I pray I could be as restrained were I in charge.


  • I realize that in their heart-of-hearts most Palestinians want what everybody wants–to live lives of peace and quiet and to worry about petty bullshit like long work hours and bills and neighbors who won't turn down the damn stereo. I get that, and I support them insofar as that's what they want.

    That being said, hoo boy do I have no sympathy for them. Watching Israel beat up on them is like watching–I don't know, let me be equally offensive to both sides–the Devil beat up Charles Manson. I'm not really rooting for either side, and the Devil is unquestionably a dick, but fuck Manson; I've no sympathy.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah–two sides to the issue, both sides behaving like barbarians–I get that, I do. But I can't forget the Palestinian crowds cheering the return of the Black September terrorists like they were the Apollo astronauts, or the murder of Klinghoffer, or Hamas using the "killed by Israelis" death of Mickey Mouse to traumatize children into Jew-hating, or the ubiquitous Holocaust denial–that shit is just plain evil, and it never, ever ends.

    And inasmuch as my inner cynic tells me that this won't end before one side wipes out the other, and if I've got to choose, I choose Israel. I don't choose happily, but Palestine has shown a repeated and consistent willingness to stoop to levels of monstrous conduct that make the Israelis look comparatively humane. Ergo, and with apologies to those who are more open-minded, fuck the Palestinians.

    And while we're on the subject of slamming America for propping up Israel, how 'bout we slam the rest of the Middle East for using the hapless Palestinians as their front-line cat's-paws for their own sick anti-Israelist agenda? We may the Big Asshole in that playground, but between Egypt, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, et al., there's a whole crew of lesser assholes doing the same thing from the other side.

  • ["They attacked us," the Israelis say, perhaps unintentionally parroting what the U.S. military and private contractors say whenever they gun down a group of Iraqi civilians. And that's the end of the discussion.]

    With variation for time and place, about the same thing one hears following fatal cop/civilian encounters in USA.

  • But I can't forget the Palestinian crowds cheering the return of the Black September terrorists like they were the Apollo astronauts,

    That was a staged and edited scene–the crowds were cheering something completely different, but it was made to look as though they were cheering the attacks on the WTC on 9/11/01.

    Looks like the paid Israeli shills showed up in force. Good job, Amy–how much do you get paid to come to blogs and spew the Israeli government propaganda?

  • So many mournful tales of Palestinian-on-Israeli violence, so few explanations of how Israeli-on-Palestinian violence is any different. Uniforms? More expensive weapons? Great. Here's a quarter, call a universe in which that makes a difference.

  • The problem with this is that there is no possibility of rational discourse with either:

    a) Evangelical Christians who believe that the Jews must hold Jerusalem for Zombie Jesus to come back and reclaim the Universe,


    b) Radical Jews who believe that the Tanakh is a land deed granting them as much of the Middle East as they so damn please.

    These two groups are impossible to debate with, because their premises are batshit. Batshit can't be reasoned with. So long as these flavors of nut have significant numbers, then, nothing can be changed, and both America and Israel will keep going on the exact same path of crazy.

  • We were forced to defend ourselves with automatic weapons against clubs, knives and metal poles when we attacked their humanitarian aid ship in international waters under cover of darkness. That sounds about right.

    A blockade is a fucking act of war. Israel is waging war against Gaza, and they just escalated.

    Get used to it. The world is going through one of its periodic insane phases, and the result will likely be a world war, in 8 to 12 years.

    Seriously, WASF,

  • Crazy for Urban Planning says:

    "The world is going through one of its periodic insane phases, and the result will likely be a world war, in 8 to 12 years."

    So many ways to go on this great post and comments, that one stood out to me. A periodic insane phase? Really? Hasn't it been going on for the last 10 years basically non-stop? Or is it only me.

    In regards to the rest of it. Shit. I think – like one of the other posts said – the Israeli's do these crazy things because they can, they don't care about how the world reacts and they know we aren't going to pull the plug on them. It's true that for the past 20 years or so they have been behaving more badly than the Palestinians.

    On the other hand, the Palestinians aren't saints. It would be good if Hamas would wash its hands of the missile firing episodes. Like one of those pro-Israeli posts mentioned, it may be true that too many Arabs are waiting for a day where they can run into Israel and start committing acts of genocide.

    The bottom line is that today it should be clear that both sides have given up on peace. Why in the world would Israel announce the new settlements the day Vice President Biden came into town if not to say to the U.S.: WE AREN'T GOING TO NEGOTIATE SO LEAVE US ALONE. The election of Bibi Netanyahu says we give up on peace. I attended a debate with Israeli and Palestinian academics a year ago or so, it was amazing, they both thought peace was dead and the next step was to build enough of a society to function alone.

    I think he stinks, but I read a Joe Klein column a couple of months ago in which he claimed the West Bank is undergoing a small economic renaissance. I haven't seen that information anywhere else – and I can't see how its possible, they can't transport goods or enter Israel (I think).

  • Twisted_Colour says:

    @Amy: No one realized how heavily they were armed. Five of the ships were boarded by the naval commando in the early hours of this morning and surrendered without resistance…. When the commando boarded the sixth ship, the Marmara,

    The Mamara was the first ship boarded and I would guess that the armed commandos were less heavy handed with the other five ships when they realized how badly they had fucked up.

    Pick handles, kitchen knives and poles is not heavily armed when facing armed commandos illegally boarding a ship.

    Noone has mentioned Galid Shalit who was abducted in a cross-border raid almost 4 years ago.

    I'm not sure why Peter Noone would mention Galid Shalit. He probably realizes that it's not very relevant to the illegal assault and killing of crew members on a Turkish flagged humanitarian aid vessel.

  • the idea that 'both sides are as bad as each other', a position often taken up by the ignorant who want to appear to have nuanced opinions, is possibly one of the most repugnant false equivalencies one can make. Of course both sides commit violence, but this violence is committed in entirely different contexts. Its certainly not a newsflash that the Palestinians have been oppressed, murdered, degraded and humiliated for many, many years but some people may not understand the extent of this oppression. For example, I recently watched a documentary (by John Pilger, he has done some very enlightening reporting in the region. I highly recommend his work, and that of Robert Fisk as well) in which a woman's house is raided by the IDF in a 'random search'. The thugs not only destroyed almost all of her posessions and threatened her children, but one of them took a shit in the middle of her living room and smeared it all over her walls. This is not an isolated incident, the IDF posted in the west bank and Gaza are notorious for humiliating people, subjecting women to strip searches at checkpoints (which is degrading in itself, but even moreso for a practicing Muslim) and closing roads for days without reason.

    Then of course the larger scale oppression includes the blockade, forcibly evicting people and shooting anyone who the IDF don't like the look of. Is it really surprising that people in this situation feel that their only way out is suicide bombs? In the same documentary I mentioned before Pilger interviewed the family of a suicide bomber, who had been a young student and volunteer medic. She was subjected to daily humiliations and saw untold tragedy when working in a Gaza hospital (which of course had a pitiful amount of medical supplies due to the blockade). The straw which broke the camels back was when she witnessed the murder of a child by an IDF sniper. The child had thrown a stone at an IDF patrol. He was immediately shot in the head. Soon afterwards the distraught girl went and blew herself up. Are both of these actions equally evil? The state sponsored murder, oppression and humiliation of a people based solely on their race and the desperate acts of defiance by a powerless and broken people?

    I will leave you with this image, a group of hardened zionists taunting a woman who has been forced out of her home by IDF thugs:

    and some links to John Pilger and Robert Fisk's work, they are freely available on google video and I sincerely hope that those of you who think that Palestinians are just as evil as Israel take the time to watch them:

    John Pilger – Palestine is Still the Issue

    Robert Fisk – The Road to Palestine

  • Also it is worth pointing out that the Hamas rocket attacks which zionists and zionist supporters condemn as barbaric acts of terrorism have claimed a total of 15 lives since 2001. In contrast, Israel have killed more people than that in a single night, so those of you who are like J. Dryden and support Israel because it is the 'lesser evil' may need to re-think your position.

  • I'm with George.

    @J.Dryden – WTF? I can't even remember how many times I've thought "Yeah, what Dryden said!" when reading the G&T comments, but today… fuck. Sorry to say it, but that argument is a pile of shit.

  • @ Ed et al,

    In no way did I try to defend either Israel on this encounter nor to excuse their actions. I simply tried to argue that if you attempt to foil a blockade, you can't expect tea and crumpets for your efforts. This effort was politically motivated by the supporters of the Palestinians and it appears that their gamble paid off (except for the 10 people who are dead).

    Israel is a unique case and one that I generally do not support but they have the right, as a sovereign nation, to determine where cargo can enter and to enforce rules that they believe are in the best interest of their nation.

    Morality cannot ever be decided through military means. The use oif force in this case is justified militarily. The politicians have to determine if it is justified morally.

  • And I have no idea who Galid Shalit is, but Gilad Shalit's wiki contains this little gem of a clue as to why his abduction isn't exactly pushed by mainstream news sources –

    "In exchange for his release, Hamas is demanding the release of all female and underage Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, as well as a further 1000 prisoners, a number of which are convicted by Israeli courts on terrorism charges."

    Underage prisoners? WTF? "Enemy combatants", presumably. Shalit, by contrast, apparently "preferred to serve in a combat unit" even though he didn't have to.

    Oh, and he's the first IDF soldier taken in such a manner in over a decade. And he was inside a TANK at a civilian checkpoint when captured.

    Israel: Victim.

  • George, did the young woman suicide bomber whose story you seem to find so moving at least go after a military target? Any word on the final body count? Also, regarding the Hamas rocket attacks, I'm not sure that the low casualty count is a sound argument for the moral superiority of the Palestinian side. The casualty count has been low because of the ineffectiveness and low quality of the rockets, not by design, since they've been aimed directly at civilian targets. I should state, I am in no way arguing that those rocket attacks justified the Israeli conflict in Lebanon in 2006 or the recent bombardment of Gaza. Both of those attacks were grossly disproportionate and immoral, in my view. But saying that Hamas is the lesser of two evils because their attacks on civilians have been fairly ineffective seems like a weak argument.

  • @ Mothra: Black September was the name of the terrorist group who committed the attack on the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics–nothing to do with 9/11, which in turn had nothing to do with Palestine. If the footage of the Palestinian crowds celebrating the return of the Black Septemberists was faked, I've not seen evidence of this, which doesn't undercut the nature of the attack itself. However, if fakery was involved, I'll cede that point.

    @ Beau: We all have our bad days, and knee-jerk anger is not the best starting point to begin composing a response, which is what I did. The comments from both sides show a remarkable amount of anger, and this from people who for the most part have no direct relation to either participant in this conflict. (I know I don't.) Why I don't know–is it the frustration of *wanting* Israel to be "the good guy" and seeing behavior and attitudes that make that impossible? Or *wanting* to see the Palestinians as having the moral high-ground–easy to do since they're unquestionably the victims much of the time, and hell yes the blockade is a cruel method of 'containment'–only to be confronted with the heinous shit they consistently pull of when they can get away with it?

    Or perhaps it's because we're instinctively sympathetic to both sides because what they want is so fundamentally *human*: a place to live, and feel free, and safe. Nothing more, really–that's what this is, at bottom, about: a place to live. Both sides want it, and both sides are right to want it. But neither seems willing to let the other have that.

    And perhaps we outsiders (OK, maybe just me) have gotten fed up, like parents who have to endure the endless, noisy fighting of two children, until finally we make a scapegoat of one of the two so as to just have some fucking peace and quiet around here. (Which attitude is paternalistic and condescending in itself, so probably I suck even in making the analogy.)

    Is anyone in the right, here? Not wholly, and not consistently, and that's deeply aggravating, and the two parties in the conflict, by refusing to commit to peace, prompt us to pick a side. Which, if we do–as I did–means that we have to overlook the injustice and cruelty of the side we've chosen. Which, since we know this, pisses us off even more, and makes us (well, me) tend towards shrillness and anger and polemicism. Not a good thing, and again, I cop to it. (I experienced a lot of the same emotions during the height of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland. Of *course* I wanted the English out of Ireland, but the willingness of the IRA to kill masses of civilians made it hard to see them as the injured parties.)

    And all this raises the equally frustrating question of whether or not, since we're not on the ground and directly involved in what's at stake, we even *get* to have an opinion that's worth expressing. I'm not *there.* I don't see the suffering, or feel the pain and rage that comes from a place of moral certainty. Is objectivity the best position to take in a moral argument, or does it set us up for the accusation that "we just don't get it"?

    In short: There's a temptation–a bad one, and one I gave into–to react to this situation with dismissive and selective anger. So, next time, I'll try a deep breath and an attempt to recognize the mote in my eye before diving into the fray. No guarantees, though…

  • J. Dryden, your last post was very thought provoking and much more evenhanded than the first. About the Black September terrorists, I wasn't alive then so I don't know what type of reaction their attack provoked among the Palestinian public. I was looking around briefly, and it said the dead terrorists were flown back to Libya, where they received heroes welcomes. But those may just have been protests orchestrated by the dictator Gaddhafi; I don't know whether there were spontaneous celebrations on the Arab street. Regardless, there are numerous examples of both sides commemorating terrorists. Just a few months ago, Palestinians in the West Bank were planning to name a square in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, who was a key figure in the bus hijacking in 1978 that left 38 civilians, including 13 children, dead. I don't know if they ended up naming it after her – they initially postponed the dedication ceremony because Biden happened to be visiting the region at the time. At the time, people were (justifiably) upset at Israel because they announced a settlement expansion on the eve of Biden's visit, and this commemoration of Mughrabi didn't really garner much attention. On the other side, I remember seeing a video in which Jewish settlers were singing a song praising Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish extremist who massacred dozens of Palestinians in a mosque.

    So there is plenty of quackery and dogmatic adherence to idealized versions of history on both sides. That said, in a lot of discussions of this issue I detect an exasperation suggesting that this conflict is unique in terms of the level of stubbornness and intransigence of the two sides. I don't think that's the case. I think it seems that way because this particular conflict garners a disproportionate share of international attention. But there are dozens of other conflicts around the world that make outsiders equally exasperated and puzzled. You ever get an Armenian and Azerbaijani into the same room to talk about Karabakh? I've met a few of both ethnicities, all college educated, but I've never met a single one who didn't regurgitate his side's story verbatim. Same goes for Georgians and Abkhaz, Han Chinese and Uighurs, Kosovars and Serbs, etc. I guess the whole point of this excursus is to argue that the Middle East conflict is a mess, to be sure, but that it's not uniquely, impossibly intractable, and that the main participants are no more irrational or stubborn than those in numerous other trouble spots.

  • "And all this raises the equally frustrating question of whether or not, since we're not on the ground and directly involved in what's at stake, we even *get* to have an opinion that's worth expressing. I'm not *there.* I don't see the suffering, or feel the pain and rage that comes from a place of moral certainty."


    The problem I have with this is that we DO have a direct involvement in it (by "we" I mean Americans; I suppose I'm just assuming that you're American!). Our government gives billions annually to Israel. I believe we fund around a third of their defense budget.

    To me, that's what matters most. My government is implicit in this because of our financial support to this nation whose policies disgust me. I have no emotional attachment to this, except insofar as I care about human beings and human dignity.

    This is unlike the otherwise very similar Northern Ireland conflict, which is a different matter to me because I have family there. I imagine some Jews and some Arab-Americans have similar emotional attachments to the Levant. But most Americans don't have any such connection to either nation, so the taxpayers shouldn't be shelling out billions.

  • Welcome back, Dryden. The kneejerking is totally understandable, and as you can probably tell, at least part of my problem with the first post is the fact I tend to kneejerk in the other direction.

    Zeb beat me to the punch on a reply with the democracy and the unspoken complicity and the taxes and a-whatnot.

  • It isn't really politically correct but there is a sort of triangulation in the US support of Israel. Republicans are a bunch of bellicose assholes, so it is pretty much assumed that they'll support Israel. And one of the Democrats biggest constituencies supports Israel; meaning that it is fairly difficult for Democrats to not support Israel.

    If both parties support Israel, there isn't a lot for the media to talk about. The fact that we talk about it anyway,I think, shows how serious the problem is.

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