A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Israel, Gaza and the Terms of the Current Debate

I don't claim to have a whole lot of knowledge concerning the historical and strategic intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but why does it seem like the US's cart blanch support for Israel has become the third rail if American Politics? Very few foreign policy issues are so black-and white that uniformity amongst opinionmakers and lawmakers results (with the exception of benign stuff like "Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Mugabe are bad guys).

So how is it that very few mainstream media outlets or politicians dare to criticize Israeli policy towards the Palestinians? The recent assault on Gaza seems to be a perfect example. I really have no dog in this particular fight. I am not remotely qualified to comment substantively on the culpability of Hamas and the Israeli govt. But I *do* know that at the very least, the situation is complicated enough and both sides have shown sufficient savagery (is that a word?) to generate a debate on the merits of what's been going on. Yet no criticism of Israel, even when their actions toward Gaza seem a bit of a disproportionate respose to assaults on its territory and people. I mean, I just heard that they targeted a fucking school where refugees were seeking to escape the attacks.

Really? A school? The Israeli govt claimed that Hamas was using the school as a shield.

I'm all like "So?" Does that give the Israelis an excuse to target the school? I've heard reports that they knew that there were sizeable amounts of civilians there. I mean, they have been doing a pretty effective job pounding Gaza with missiles and launching a comprehensive ground invasion. The UN Estimates that over 500 people have died at this point. What does it cost the Israelis to hold off targeting the fucking SCHOOL for a few days while it ascertains who is where?

The missiles launched by Hamas since Dec 27 have killed 4 people. This is tragic. But the response seems a bit much.

And not a single solitary mainstream figure in the US will dare criticize Israel. Putting aside the notion of wh is right and who is wrong, it just seems as if the Israeli response will do very little to lessen attacks by Hamas in the near future. The sight of 30 casualties at a girls school would seem to be a very effective recruiting tool for would-be terrorists.

But we can't even say this. Shortly after Jimmy Carter lost the Presidency, he gave an exit interview where he was asked what he knew then that he didn't know when he assumed office in 1977. He looked into the camera and said that the Israeli lobby was the single most powerful group in determining American foreign policy. You don't fuck with these people. We have a book in my house in DeKalb about politicians who dared to speak out concerning Israel's staggeringly disporportionate influence in American Foreign Policy and who were aggressively targeted by opposition in their re-election fights, people who were pretty much blackballed from the ability to comment and publish in mainstream media outlets.

This has pretty much been the case for decades. I just feel it is not healthy for any country's long term security, especially the US and Israel. I have rarely, if ever, come across a subject that is so taboo in our political debate. And I have no idea why this is the case.

Again: I can't really take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for I lack a proper grounding and understanding of even recent history. What I do know, however, is that the tenor and tone of whatever passes for debate surrounding this issue is fairly one sided. Why, I don't know.

Come to think if it, it would make for a great Political Science dissertation subject for you guys. On second thought, perhaps not. I'd like for you to be able to get jobs afterwards.

I would welcome any insight into this.


Blogger neill said...

Having taught a course titled "History of the Arab / Israeli Conflict" this past term, I'm surprisingly qualified, but unable to verbalize anything constructive about the Gaza campaign at the moment.

10:34 AM

Anonymous Travis said...


I have asked many times over the past few years the exact same question--though I chose the phrase "blank check" instead of carte blanche. That similarity makes me smile :)

I get really perturbed when I hear such things as, "We withdrew from Gaza and what we got in return was Hamas." As if it were really that simple, as if you can draw a line at the withdrawal and discard a hundred (plus?) years of historical conflict and tit-for-tat violence.

The abuses go back generations, they both blame each other. I don't know what the solution is--everyone just needs to stop. Just let it go. Hamas needs to accept that Israel is going to keep existing. And Israel needs to accept that Palestine needs a state of its own.

Yet we both know that won't end the conflict.

Good post.

9:50 PM


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