Somewhat buried in the muddle of Thomas Friedman's latest column, on Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian prospects for peace, is a very interesting and important point about the similarity between the Likudniks and American conservatives. The similarity is, both groups attempt to equate either their leader or their specific partisan philosophy with their respective nations. Disagree with Bush, you're "anti-American" or "anti-troops" (just ask Natalie Maines). Disagree with the greatest excesses of Sharon/Likud policy in the West Bank and elsewhere, or even showing the slightest sympathy for a single Palestinian, and you're "anti-Israel".
The left, indeed, has some of this problem too. (and by "the left", i mean, "i have long hair, and so do other people in the liberal student population around the country, hehe"). In conversation, if someone told someone equivalent to me "I'm pro-Israel", an expected response could be "get the fuck out!", or "don't call me again!". The reason for this (outside of the occasional people who make on-campus speeches with the word "militant" in them) is that the Christian Right and the hard-line occupation/settlement-apologists have hijacked the literal words "pro-Israel" and applied them to their agenda. (of course, the xians are only in it so they can have Jews running Jerusalem when that Jesus guy comes back, though we've been waiting thousands of years for that). Thus, the words "pro-Israel" evoke, among many on the left, the image of old, surly Ariel Sharon ordering a refugee camp to be bulldozed or bombed.
When I was born, Israel had been in existence for more than three decades, and when I started to grow a political conscience it had been there for over four. As a result, in the eyes of the left, I've evlolved into a sort of pragmatic idealist on the issue of Israel's disputed right to exist. In other words: The apartheid-esque excesses of Israel in the past few decades, including recently, are inexcusable, just as much as any suicide bombing (also abhorrent behavior). They need to ditch the settlements, be willing to compromise (on Jerusalem and elsewhere) and be diplomatic with the new elements of the Palestinian Authority (which is now much more than Arafat, who's been a disaster in the past few years), and overall be willing to set a good example (overall Sharon has done none of those things), rather than just exchanging handjobs with Bush and the Robertson-Falwell set here. After all, compared to the PA they're the more powerful entity, but the moral high-ground cannot be claimed just because you make some in a desperate population do desperate things. All of that being said, Israel's not going to pack up the entire operation and leave, there isn't much of an international precedent for that. My idealism kicks in here as well, though: Israel has the capability to exist, in the region, in a just and peaceful manner, and I hope this happens soon, or in my lifetime. No, they haven't ever fully up to this point, but that's no reason why they can't (though certainly they won't if they keep deferring to what Bush and the neocons have been saying). Anyway, I've babbled on too long...
Relating this back to Friedman, he says:
Reading today's news, I think there should be little doubt that President Bush will go down in history as the most pro-Israel president of all time.And in these few paragraphs we find a great unspoken truth, being that "pro-Israel" means "favoring policies that would lead to the long-term existence of a peaceful, just, secure and equitable Israel". Thank you for that, Mr F.
No, no — not this President Bush. I'm talking about his father, George Herbert Walker Bush.
This President Bush — Dubya — if he keeps going in the direction he's been going, will be remembered as the president who got so wrapped around the finger of Ariel Sharon that he indulged Israel into thinking it really could have it all — settlements, prosperity, peace and democracy — and in doing so helped contribute to the slow erosion of the Jewish state.
The first President Bush, by contrast, was ready to tell Israel and the Jewish lobby some very hard truths after the first Gulf war: that expanding settlements would harm Israel's long-term interests, would shrink the prospects for peace and would help undermine America's standing in the Arab world. And it was also the elder Mr. Bush who backed his secretary of state, James Baker, enough for Mr. Baker to twist Arabs' arms to get them to sit down, en masse, for the first time with Israel at the Madrid peace conference.
No thank you, however for
[President George W Bush] helped create the conditions to bring Mr. Abbas to power, both by refusing to deal with Mr. Arafat and by deposing Saddam Husseinand
And Mr. Bush's speech on Friday laying out a vision for a new Middle East, based on free trade, was excellent.and who can forget
With the U.S. having eliminated the most powerful threat to Israel — the regime of Saddam Hussein(Oy vey. The most powerful threat to Israel still holds power, has short white hair and big jowls and a low voice)