I’m on a plane right now, waiting to be whisked off to Barbados for some much-needed R&R. Before I power down the mobile, however, I wanted to give my debate partner from last week’s Israel/Palestine post the chance to respond to my summary of our argument (which as you may recall, took place on a mutual friend’s Facebook page).
I’m happy to present his side more fully. Though I strived to make my previous post as balanced and accurate as possible, this is my site, and, as a writer, I know that framing is everything.
I appreciate that my debate partner — who must remain anonymous — has taken the time to carry our discussion forward.
See you all in a week.
I think your description of our conversation is mostly fair. However, I’d like to point out that after I discussed the anti-Israel echo chamber I sent another post to our mutual friend recognizing that there is a pro-Israel echo chamber also. Also, the quote about anti-semitism, in the context you placed it, may give the impression that I think that any questioning of Israeli policy is tantamount to Jew-hating. I do not think that, I question some Israeli policies myself. I also want to make it clear that I did not accuse our mutual friend of being anti-semitic, I specified that I was not accusing her of anti-semitism. I think there are people, especially in Europe, for whom Israel-bashing is a convenient and politically correct form of anti-semitism, but I do not think that all or even most criticizers of Israel are anti-semitic.
Now for the substance. Regarding your point re Hamas’s legitimacy bringing change, I was glad when Hamas won the election because I think being in power generally tends to moderate extremists because people tend to be more pragmatic when there are consequences to their actions. Unfortunately, Hamas refused (and still refuses) to agree to stand by agreements that were previously made between the PA and Israel. It does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, nor does it acknowledge the peace process as a solution to the issue. The following is a direct quote from Hamas’s charter: “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” I think Israel and the U.S. were not wrong in considering this unacceptable and expecting that agreements between Israel and the PA be binding regardless of which party is in power in the PA. That is why Israel and the U.S. haven’t been negotiating with Hamas, Hamas won’t move off their position.
The U.S. and Israel’s special relationship began in the context of Cold War politics. Through the 1950s and 1960s, Nasser moved closer to the Soviet bloc for a variety of reasons. This inherently made the relationship between Israel and the West, especially the U.S. stronger. Israel was our closest ally in a region of high strategic interest. Of course, the U.S.’s Jewish and religious Christian populations also had a role in heightening the relationship because the existence of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was important to both groups.
I would say the primary reason for the relationship is a matter of principle. Israel is a democracy and with the exception of Iraq now, it is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is a constant target of political attacks by Muslim countries and petty dictators who want to draw attention from their own abuses, and it would be the target of military attacks if it wasn’t able to defend itself. I believe it is, and should be, against our principles to allow a democratic ally get pounded by a collection of dictators. Also, most Americans believe in the principle of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. Second, Israel is an ally of ours in the struggle against terrorism. Third, we derive economic benefits from Israel’s technology, and we benefit from Israel having one of the best intelligence services in the world.
I anticipate that you may dispute my second point by contending that terrorists target us because of our special relationship with Israel. That is not correct. Al-Qaeda targets us because it is their philosophy that (their) God is sovereign over the whole world so the whole world must acknowledge the leadership of God’s law and God’s representatives (naturally, them). It doesn’t matter who we have a relationship with, we are not Muslim so we must be subjugated. Iran’s hatred of the U.S. is more rooted in U.S. support for the Shah than it is in U.S. support for Israel. And Hezbollah has proven that getting what they want does not stop them. Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, didn’t end its struggle with Hezbollah. Hezbollah kidnapped and murdered Israeli soldiers without provocation in 2006.