I just like Israel. Sue me.
I’m about to go on the sort of long screeching political tirade I’m really not very good at. Nonetheless, it’s my blog and I’ll make myself look like an idiot, for the very few who will every actually read this, if I want to.
Supporting Israel is one of those things that, these days, makes most of the other liberals I know want to disown me and insist that, no matter what I may say, I’m certainly no damned liberal they want to acknowledge as a comrade and kindred spirit. Over the course of my adult life, many of my opinions on hot button issues have convinced various left wing larynxes I’m acquainted with that I cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to consider myself anything but, at best, a ‘moderate’, and in many ways, a raving ‘conservative’.
For example, since I am a white male, and I regard affirmative action as being a well intentioned, poorly conceived, badly executed program whose logic has been insupportable from its inception, many of my liberal contacts over the years have looked upon me with horror. To my mind, you do not combat racism by enabling and institutionalizing reverse racism, but most of the liberals I know, especially the Caucasian ones, have had oppressor guilt imprinted on their DNA patterns since their gestation, and are apparently simply incapable of understanding that you do not wipe out bias by instituting a system in which everyone making any sort of choice or distinction MUST, as a matter of law, pay MORE attention to race, and in fact, prioritize their choices BY race, rather than ignoring race altogether and simply looking at the qualifications of each candidate, as should be the actual goal of any social initiative meant to wipe out racism.
Affirmative action is a big one, but my liberal acquaintances are also appalled by my reluctant, through-gritted-teeth, less than full throated affirmation of abortion rights (as a male, I acknowledge it’s not up to me, nor should it be up to the government, to decide for any woman what she will do with her own reproductive system; nonetheless, I hate the very idea of abortion and would have a very difficult time respecting any woman who ever had one for frivolous or casual reasons… or as someone on CHICAGO HOPE once put it, I support birth control, not abortion), and they especially hate the way I insist that although I really like the idea of gun control, the Constitution of the United States simply and irrefutably prohibits it absolutely, and any statute being enforced within the United States, be they Federal, State, or municipal, that in any way inhibits or interferes with the people’s right to keep and bear arms, is unConstitutional, until such time as we amend the Second Amendment.
And, lately, as I wryly note above, supporting Israel, especially in its most recent horrifyingly violent ongoing conflicts with Palestinians, has become yet another issue that liberals want to disown me for.
Why I still consider myself a liberal despite these political beliefs that so many liberals these days find unconscionable can be found here and I won’t bother to go into it again in any detail.
However, I will note that until very recently, supporting Israel was considered to be the very definition of liberalism. American conservatives, for the most part, have viewed Israel’s existence with dubiety (to say the least) for decades since its inception. Most conservatives used isolationist bluster to make what was actually simply ‘good old fashioned Jew hating talk’ seem more acceptable, but the bottom line for the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s seemed to be, if you supported Israel, or, at the very least, if you supported the idea of the American government supporting Israel in any way, shape, or form, you were either a goddam yarmulka wearing commie symp pinko Marxist Jew undermining American values yourself, or you were a devious fifth columnist in the secret pay of the Zionist-Marxist International Axis trying to overthrow the American government and bring the U.S. into a one world government dominated by the godless commies.
My, how things have changed.
Bill Connoll, whose alarmingly reflexive left wing blog Thoughts On The Eve Of The Apocalypse I was recently directed to by the generally excellent (if slightly too knee jerk for my taste) Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, seems to sum up the viewpoint of most of the left wing liberal bloggers I’m aware of these days, in this post, where he notes, among many other things, a report entitled:
Killing The Future, Mostly of Palestine
Two days ago, Robert Fisk reported onthe release of Amnesty International's recent report,
"Killing the Future: Children in the Line of Fire":
In one of its most shocking reports on the Israeli-Palestinian war, Amnesty International today condemns both sides in the conflict for their "utter disregard" for the lives of children – 250 of them Palestinian and 72 Israeli – who have been killed over the past year.
Although the Fisk report then goes on to say, with remarkable sanity and balance:
This clearly annoys Connoll, as it would most of my fellow self named liberals these days, who dislike it when anyone says anything mean about Palestinians, whom my fellow left wingers, in apparent knee jerk reaction to the current conservative and populist biases against Arabic culture, have embraced as oppressed, patriotic heroes and cultural martyrs. He notes :
Ironically, the very same day Fisk's report was published, the International Herald Tribune ran a story stating, "A 12-year-old Palestinian schoolboy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers Monday and 22 other children were wounded by Israeli gunfire while throwing rocks and debris at army tanks in the besieged West Bank city of Nablus, local officials reported. Five adults were also wounded."
Remarkably, I've heard little about any of this in the American media.
Connoll’s post is simply one of many I could have pulled off nearly any of the liberal blogs I read and generally enjoy and agree with. In fact, over on William Burton’s always thoughtful and never, to my mind, knee jerk or reflexive, blog, someone whose name I cannot recall posted a several hundred word comment calling me a racist and a bigot, at great and enormous length, because I indicated in one of my own posted comments there that I like Israel a lot more than I like Palestine, in both sweeping general and pretty much every specific comparative point I was aware of.
Liberals, as I’ve stated, seem to have simply, for the most part, absorbed a maxim: American conservatives don’t like Arabs right now, so we must love Arabs and defend their right to be Arabs and to exist as Arabs with every fiber and particle of our beings.
Since Israel is now, as it has pretty much always been since its inception as a nation, in a death-struggle with various Arab nations, but especially those who call themselves Palestinians, this apparently means that liberals are now against Israel.
Well, again, as I stated at the top of this: I just like Israel, especially as opposed to Palestine. And while I admit, I’m no minutely informed political power blogger who knows everything there is to know about domestic and international political affairs going back to the mid 19th Century, and I’ll admit, I may certainly be guilty of oversimplifying things, nonetheless, I would like to state some hard truths, as I perceive them, on this subject.
I like Israel, especially as compared to their cultural and political opponents, the Palestinians, for many reasons. I’m going to try to set out those reasons on a couple of lists – List (A), of things Israel does that I generally judge in a kindly and approving fashion, and List (B) of things Israel doesn’t do that I view similarly. Ready? Here we go:
List (A): Israel does:
* tolerate different religious views
* live in peace with anyone, no matter what their origin, race, culture, or belief system, as long as they don’t shoot at them
* eschew the mutilation of its adolescent female population’s genitalia as a social control mechanism
* allow its women to wear whatever the hell they want on the street
* allow its women to vote, drive, and fuck anyone they feel like fucking, whether or not they’re married at the time
* allow its women to leave burning buildings regardless of their state of dress or undress
* have an actual criminal justice system with courts and judges and juries and trials, as opposed to one where religious fanatics make snap judgements on the spot and carry out barbarous, cruel, often lingeringly torturous punishments and/or executions without any chance of appeal
* commit most if not all of its violent acts with uniformed troops against an openly declared, sociopathically fanatical enemy, said uniformed troops generally acting only in either undeniable self defense or in retaliation for previous, terrorist style attacks by non-uniformed personnel who generally target civilians
I could go on and on, but… no, wait, I think I will go on and on for a little bit longer, anyway, with List (B). Israel does NOT:
* punish girls caught taking walks with unsuitable boys by allowing government officials to gangrape them
* punish adulterous wives by burying them up to their necks in the sand and then having mobs of men throw rocks at their heads until they die, with or without an actual trial to establish the guilt of this remarkable non-crime
* dance and sing in the streets when large buildings full of non-combatant strangers fall burning to the ground, killing thousands
* deploy biological and chemical weaponry on its own citizenry, or, as far as I know, anyone else
* pay a death benefit to the families of sociopaths who strap bombs on themselves, walk into public areas frequented by Palestinian civilians, and then self detonate
* call those same self detonating, murderous sociopaths ‘heroes’ and ‘martyrs’, not to mention ‘soldiers’ despite the fact that none of them wear a uniform when they carry out their ‘military attacks’
* dress up babies as suicide bombers as a hilarious cultural in-joke and then take pictures for the family photo album
* hijack airliners full of non-combatants and drive them into large buildings full of non-combatants to make some insane geo-political point
* embrace a rabid cultural ideology entirely devoted to the eventual eradication through any means necessary of an entire population of human beings they just don’t frickin’ like, regardless of whether or not that population actually accedes to their ridiculous demands or not
All of the above are reasons why, shockingly and appallingly, I support Israel, especially as Israel is contrasted with the Palestinians, and Arabic culture in general.
However, I realize that that list isn’t enough. (Well, I realize that nothing I say will be enough; those who are adamantly opposed to me will not be persuaded by anything I say; only those who already agree with me before I ever sit down to write this will agree with me after reading it. But what the hell, it’s a slow night.) So, a few more points to the ‘why I like Israel and think Palestinians should shut up and go away’ argument:
Let’s look, once more, at one of the things my fellow left wingers (God, how they hate it when I call them that) bring up the most often in their ‘Israel just sucks and so does the American media’s coverage of the Middle East’ blather, namely, the fact that lots and lots of Palestinian children have been killed in this conflict by evil Israeli Defense Forces… apparently, far more of them, in fact, than Israeli children have been killed by Palestinian ‘soldiers’, ‘martyrs’, and ‘heroes’. And this fact, my liberal fellow travelers endlessly trumpet, is all but ignored by the goddamned Israel hugging American media. (My fellow liberals do tend to eschew the terms ‘Jew loving’ or ‘Zionist’, but I swear I can sometimes almost hear them gritting their teeth as they force themselves not to type either of them.)
Looking at the report passed along by Connoll, I see "the International Herald Tribune ran a story stating, "A 12-year-old Palestinian schoolboy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers Monday and 22 other children were wounded by sraeli gunfire while throwing rocks and debris at army tanks in the besieged West Bank city of Nablus, local officials reported. Five adults were also wounded."
Now, this leads me to ask two rhetorical questions. The first I frankly admit, I don’t know the answer to, and what I’d guess, based on my own beliefs and perceptions, could well be wrong. Still:
1. Exactly what is the percentage of dead Palestinian children that have been killed by unformed Israeli troops after violently provoking said troops by engaging them as an armed mob with missile fire, and, apparently, the support and encouragement, if not outright leadership of nearby Palestinian adults? As opposed to, say, the percentage of Israeli children who were killed by non-uniformed Palestinian terrorists walking into eateries and shopping centers and libraries with bombs strapped to their nutball asses and self detonating?
My guess, which again, I fully admit, could be wrong, is that both percentages are going to be pretty high. Furthermore, I’d also guess, just off the top of my head, that the percentages of Palestinian children killed by non-uniformed Israeli terrorists with bombs (or anything else) while they were just sitting around reading books or eating ice cream is pretty fucking low. Similarly, I’d also guess that the percentage of Israeli children shot down by uniformed Palestinian defense forces after they started screaming, charging, mobbing, and throwing rocks at said uniformed and armed soldiery is pretty low.
In fact, I’m going to guess that probably the reason so many more Palestinian kids have been killed by Israeli soldiers than Israeli kids have been killed by Palestinians, is that in general, Israelis, whether they are children or adults, do not attack armed soldiers with their bare hands, or with sticks and stones and pieces of street debris. (Unless, of course, the armed soldiers are trying to herd them into ovens or something.) This may speak to Israelis being more civilized than Arabs in general, or more intelligent, or more sane, or all three. In this specific case, I suspect it actually speaks to Israelis raising their children to be tolerant, as opposed to Arabs and Palestinians in particular raising their children to hate Israelis and to believe that if they die fighting the enemies of Allah they will automatically go to Paradise (and that last belief strikes me as not only being completely nuts and insanely irresponsible, but also simply an undeniably evil thing to teach a child). But what the hell do I know.
My second rhetorical question on this matter is this:
- You’re a uniformed tank commander in a region where you, the soldiers under your command, and the people you are there to protect and patrol, are surrounded at all times by violent fanatics who will stop at nothing to cause you, and them, harm. It has been demonstrated to you so many times, and so tragically, that no sane person can doubt it, and no responsible peace officer can disregard it, that among your enemy, there are no individuals who can be safely judged by appearance, gender, race, or age as non-combatants. It has also been demonstrated repeatedly that a mistake on your part will certainly lead to your death and the deaths of the people under your command, and those you are there to protect. Abruptly, while on patrol, you find yourself surrounded by a screaming mob of adolescents and some adults, all obviously hostile and vigorously and violently engaging you and your troops with sustained missile fire.
I want to take a moment to note, here, that ‘you’ as the uniformed tank commander in this example are not necessarily Israeli. You could be an American in Hanoi in 1968, surrounded by Vietnamese ‘civilians’. You could be a Bosnian Serb. You could be a Sunni Muslim nervously patrolling a Shi’ite neighborhood, or a South Korean soldier in the DMZ. In some parallel timeline, you could be a Native American, fighting to defend your last remaining free territory from the evil encroachments of the Vile White European Invaders. And it’s helpful (although those I’m writing this mostly to won’t remotely want to) to try and take away the nationalist and cultural labels from this, and just see a generic situation. But, continuing the question, or thought exercise:
Utilizing what superhuman ability granted you by the deity of your choice, or perhaps your otherworldly origin or the effects of atomic radiation on your parents DNA, do you instantly come to the conclusion that mixed in among the rocks, sticks, pieces of brick, bottles, and other missiles hurtling at you and your soldiers, there is no Molotov cocktail, grenade, or crude but effective homemade Semtex bomb? And, barring your use of said superhuman ability to instantly reach this crucial, life and death conclusion, what amount of force do you conclude is justified to preserve your own life, and the lives of your troops, and the lives of the people you are charged to protect, against this attack? And how much time do you think, in this exercise, you would have to ponder this before you had to take some sort of action?
Analogy is always suspect, but I’ll tell you what: if I get a bunch of my buddies together, we all get rocks and clubs, and we head across town to the closest Islamic mosque and gather around it as a screaming mob, waving our clubs and hurling our rocks through the windows, I’m personally willing to bet that the cops are going to show up pretty goddam quick with guns drawn and tell us, in no uncertain terms, to stop doing that shit or they will shoot us dead. And I suspect even more that, if there were already cops standing around outside that mosque when we arrived, and we started tossing rocks at them, they’d start shooting back at us. And I suspect they’d do that even if me and my buddies were adolescents or teenagers, once they gave us a warning or two to cut the shit. American adolescents and teenagers have been known to carry guns and explosives, and the fact that an armed peacekeeper only sees rocks and clubs doesn’t mean they won’t necessarily respond with lethal force.
I’m also pretty sure, although the news reports Connoll reviles for their lack of balance (meaning, sympathy for Palestinian patriots, heroes, and martyrs) don’t mention it, that the Israeli Defense Forces in question probably told the Palestinian mob in this particular example to cut the shit or they’d be fired on. Maybe more than once.
Now, suppose instead of cops protecting that mosque in my example, there are American Special Forces troops, with loaded M-16s and full combat ordinance, stationed there instead. And suppose instead of me and my buddies, or a bunch of obviously American kids that these Special Forces guys don’t know, through generations of repeated atrocities, are willing to do anything to kill them, they are instead being attacked by a mob of… I don’t know… fanatical Iroquois secessionists who have over the past forty years demonstrated a willingness to go to any extreme of violence to wipe out American soldiers and peacekeepers illegally occupying what they consider to be their own legitimate territory. Exactly what’s going to happen to that screaming, attacking, rock throwing mob of zealous partisans?
My fellow liberal lefties seem to quite ardently believe that when Palestinian terrorists attack civilian targets with lethal weapons of indiscriminate effect, they are behaving patriotically and heroically. In contrast, when uniformed peacekeeping troops retaliate for those terrorist attacks, or even fire in self defense on fanatical mobs attempting to swarm their position, they are unconscionable war criminals who should be perfunctorily tried and then summarily hung.
Okay, that may be an overstatement; most of my fellow bloggers do, as a nominal afterthought, condemn Palestinian suicide bombers. Yet still, the vast and overwhelming impression I get is that the left wing of blogdom these days somehow, even while condemning Palestinian terrorism, views the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces as being somehow every bit as bad, if not actually worse.
One final rhetorical point and then I’m done with this, at least, for now (and since no one reads this thing, that means, probably forever: )
"Land for Peace" is another biggie that both the liberal Israeli left wing, and the liberals over here, keep harping on. The Israeli occupation of the Left Bank is an immoral incursion. The Palestinians of the left bank are an illegally occupied and oppressed people. If Israel is serious about peace, then Israel has to get the hell out of the Left Bank, apologize for illegally settling it in the first place, pay reparations, and, I don’t know, line up individually by the millions to kneel and kiss Arafat’s ass and murmur sincere imprecations of their cultural remorse on live, internationally broadcast television.
I don’t know whether or not the Israeli occupation of the Left Bank is an immoral incursion, and while I admit that, let me also state that I in no way am saying that the Israelis are some sort of fantasy Jedi Knight culture composed of nothing but noble heroes who are all wise and benevolent and good. Are there bad Israelis? I’m sure there are. Have the Israelis done bad things? I have no doubt. So has everyone. I’ve done bad things. Everyone I know has done bad things. America has done bad things, Russia has done bad things, France has done bad things, Belgium and Switzerland and, I don’t know, goddam Luxembourg have all done bad things, I would imagine. And the occupation of the Left Bank, for all I actually know, is a Bad Thing that Israel has done. Nonetheless, I want to point out one more thing that seems to me to be obvious, but that no one else has even mentioned:
Based on what seems to be generally known and admitted by pretty much everyone of every political persuasion about Palestinians and Israel, what’s going to happen if Israel just throws up its hands, says "Holy shit, you guys are right, we just suck… we’re outta the Left Bank, and y’all have a party, okay?"
My fellow left wingers all seem to think that, assuming the awful and intransigent and bloodthirsty Israelis would just open their eyes and embrace that most reasonable of all positions, why then, the Palestinians would fall to their knees and go ‘lawsamercy, you Jews are our brothers after all!’. There would be a big group hug, everyone would dance and sing in the streets, two disparate cultures would embrace and learn from each other, the very heavens would open and manna would pour down and the Millennium itself would be fairly begun.
I’m sorry, I think that’s just stupid. What I think is far more realistic is that the Palestinians would then say "About fucking time, you stupid fucking Jews. Now, since you’ve acknowledged that you have absolutely no moral claim on our holy ground, get the fuck out of Jerusalem right this instant, you infidel dogs, or we’ll kill you all."
And I tend to think they’d put it exactly like that, too.
I also personally believe that if every Jew in Israel were then, at that point, to suddenly clap themselves on the forehead and exclaim woefully, "You know, you’re right, we have absolutely no moral grounds for living here in the Middle East, let’s just scatter ourselves back amongst the various nations of the Earth again", and got on planes and vamoosed, leaving the functional infrastructure of Israel behind for the Palestinians to take over without asking for one red shekel in compensation – the Palestinians would still not say ‘thank you’. I suspect, at that point, that the Palestinians would move in, take over the houses and buildings and well irrigated fields built and paid for and died over by the Israelis for generations, and pretty much immediately lay plans to, using whatever methods were available or became necessary, wipe out the blot that they consider the Jewish people to be from the very visage of humanity itself.
(Actually, I suspect first there’d be a jolly damned big Islamic holy war over which particular subsect of Islam got to occupy the actual Dome of the Rock, and as long as they don't start throwing around nukes I say have at it, O Sons Of The Desert, but if there were any extremist Moslems left when the dust settled from that one, then they’d get around to plotting the deaths of every Jew in the world. After which, assuming there was ever an ‘after’ to that, they’d start plotting the deaths of every non-Moslem Shi’ite in the world.)
So, I don’t know. Maybe the Israelis should acknowledge that their occupation of the Left Bank is illegal and they should withdraw. Or maybe some of their detractors should acknowledge that Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, simply hate all outsiders in general, and all Jews in specific, and there is absolutely nothing Israel can do other than lie down and die, to placate them, or win lasting peace, in the Middle East.
Nothing, I mean, except wipe every Arab religious/cultural zealot off the face of the Earth. Which, to date, the Israelis have shown remarkable restraint in not actually setting out to do, in my opinion.
Ultimately, why do I like Israel, and dislike Arabic culture so much? Because Israel, and Judaism, are cultures of tolerance and permissiveness and individual freedom and democracy. Arabic culture, and Islamic culture, are based on intolerance, conformity enforced by instant, barbaric punishments, misogyny, autocracy, and violent repression. Jews, as far as I can see, raise their children to be tolerant and to not pick fights. Arabs, and especially Palestinians, raise their children to hate all non-Arabs (and some fellow Arabs) so virulently that they are willing to kill themselves, or send their loved ones off to horrible fiery deaths, in order to take a few of the enemy with them.
I sympathize with any innocents who get caught in a crossfire, and I also sympathize with those who are warped by spectacularly bad parenting, no matter what race or culture they may belong to. But when we’re talking about the victims of suicide bombers, as opposed to those killed when they willingly engaged armed soldiers in a violent confrontation… well, sorry. My sympathies and support go to the Israelis.
I take it back. I’m not sorry at all.
AFTERWORD: The above post was actually written back in late 2002. Since then, little if anything has changed concerning my opinions and my personal emotional preferences in Middle Eastern cultures and nation-states. To my perceptions, little if anything has changed in how the left and right currently regard Israel, Palestine, or any of the other Arab Middle Eastern states -- the left invariably, and to my mind, reflexively, champions the poor, pitiful, powerless Moslems who are being terribly oppressed by Israel and her evil sponsor state, America, while the right just as mindlessly supports Israel, especially as they perceive Israel as an aggressive, avenging, bloodthirsty ally against Islamic extremism (which, again, to the right, simply means all of Islam, indiscriminately).
It seems to me that fundamentally, this comes down to a grave misconception on both their parts. Each side of the 'debate' unconsciously and unthinkingly identifies Israel with the U.S. Each side believes that we should judge each nation by the same standards. To me, this seems fallacious. The United States is not surrounded by maniacal enemies bent on our destruction, regardless of what the Bush junta and its avid toadies would like us to believe. When the United States decides to take it on themselves to initiate an aggressive, so called 'pre-emptive' military action to 'protect itself' from obvious, imminent danger, and there is no obvious imminent danger, and we all know that now and in fact, most of us knew it at the time, it simply is not the moral equivalent of when Israel takes similar actions.
It strikes me that one reason the right wing in our country so strongly wants to identify with Israel is, to an extent, aggression envy. When Israel launches an attack on Palestinian forces, the world criticizes them harshly, and Israel shrugs and continues to do what it has to do to survive. The right admires this, and is deeply jealous of it at the same time; they yearn for that same kind of moral forthrightness in our own government and military and foreign posture. The problem with this is, though, as I've noted, America is not besieged by enemies who want to kill every American man, woman, and child. We do not have daily terrorist bombing attacks killing significant percentages of our civilian population. We do not have heavily armed terrorists a few miles from our borders readying mortars. We do not, in short, have any justification for behaving the way Israel has to, in order to maintain its existence as a nation.
The right, clearly, wishes mightily that this were not so. In fact, I honestly believe the American right,would like nothing more than to see the kind of terrorist attacks that Israel currently suffers come here to America. On some level, the right would rejoice if American civilians were being blown up in the streets, if we were losing thousands or tens of thousands of American lives a day to suicide bombings and enemy shellings, if terrorists were hijacking jet liners and slamming them into American skyscrapers at least once a month.
Of course, if all this were happening in America, the right wing would not allow our country to respond with the grace and the courage of Israel under fire. We would not keep our individual liberties or our democratic institutions, we would not continue to brave the streets and shops of our towns and cities the way Israelis have and do. No, the first thing that would happen, if we began to be attacked as often and as lethally as the Israelis have been for decades now, would be to rush to declare martial law, giving our National Idiot and his unelected enforcers unlimited power (to the extent he and they haven't already simply co-opted it while we stand here dumbly and allow it) to 'protect us'.
This is another reason I like Israel. Under waves of murderous, unpredictable, undefendable (and indefensible) terrorist attack, entire generations of Israelites have responded with relative calm and composure. They come together, they help each other, but they do not immediately insist on turning into a police state so their government can provide them with more security. In their situation, they are aware that such rigorous measures will not purchase them any more safety -- all they will lose is their freedom.
And in that particular regard, America and Israel are alike. However much spoiled, weak, cowardly Americans may wish to believe otherwise, surrendering our minds and our souls to some grandiose, posturing Big Brother will not make us safer. It will simply make us less free.