Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Liberals Deserting Israel

Israel is a democracy fighting for its life for 62 years now. When Labor ruled Israel, Democrats in the U.S. were comfortable with the government in charge. But liberals have more trouble with Likud, Israel’s nationalistic, militaristic, hold-onto-the-West-Bank-by-building-settlements party.

Knowledgeable liberals take their cues on Israeli politics from the pro-Labor Haaretz (they read its English edition), Israel’s most influential newspaper. Of yesterday’s Israeli commando raid on a Turkish-organized flotilla of activists bringing relief supplies to Gaza, Haaretz has said:
the question was not who would win the confrontation, but who would win more public opinion points. In this test, Benjamin Netanyahu's government failed completely. [His] policy boomeranged and cost Israel its international legitimacy.

Haaretz’s stand—remember, the paper is talking to Israelis in the context of trying to undermine Netanyahu’s government—is echoed in the influential David Ignatius’ Washington Post column on the incident:
a wise leader should hedge his bets rather than roll the dice with a showy commando operation at sea.

Israel’s a democracy. For the democracy’s other side of the story, one supporting the position that flotilla activists left Netanyahu with little choice but to board the ships, please see Mona Charen’s list of facts in the conservative National Review.

Ignatius and other liberals live in an echo chamber of declining support for Israel, one well separated from the days when liberals defended Israel and stood up to conservative, WASPy Arabists in the State Department, roughly the period from 1948 to the early 1980s. Besides Likud’s having replaced Labor in running Israel, what’s going wrong?

Israel, to liberals, looks more and more like apartheid South Africa, minority whites using force to suppress a majority of non-white Palestinians (never mind everybody's a Semite). South Africa tried to wall off blacks into bantustans, depriving them of the vote within South Africa proper. Liberals feel Israel tries to treat the West Bank as its bantustan. Liberals could reach for spiritual unity by rallying against South Africa; now they have Israel and its strong military to rally against.

Briefly, the parallel is outrageously unfair to Israel. Israel is not only a democracy at home, it truly wishes to be rid of the West Bank, but now has to fear that Hamas will take over the West Bank, as it has taken over Gaza, and squeeze Israel from two sides, with Hamas's friends Hezbollah dropping rockets in from the North. Scary. Very scary indeed, with Iran close to having the bomb.

We must support Israel. Israel owes its existence to us, and we are its only friend. Liberals, don’t go wobbly now.

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