Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Israel Under Siege

Yesterday Israeli commandos interdicted a flotilla that was trying to break the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza. Sent from Turkey, supported by pro-Hamas groups, the flotilla sought to open a channel through which it could re-arm Hamas. The war continues.

No one should be shocked to see the torrent of recrimination directed against Israel. Educated European opinion, coupled with no small amount of educated American opinion, has bought the oppression narrative that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have been selling. They have come to believe that Israel, by the fact that it exists, is responsible for all of the ills that have befallen the Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East.

If the current war between Israel and the Palestinians is taking place in the arena of public opinion, Israel seems to have suffered a loss, regardless of whether it was right or wrong to do what it did. For a larger analysis of the public opinion war, see George Friedman's essay here.

Given the fact that Israel is still the most formidable military power in its neighborhood, those who seek its destruction have given up on the idea of a military confrontation. They have been trying instead to win back what they consider to be their Allah-given territory on the battlefield of public opinion.

They want Israel to be branded a pariah state, to be stripped of its political legitimacy, and to be forced to yield to Palestinian demands, especially the demand for a right of return. Clearly, Palestinian interests do not want a separate state, alongside the Jewish state. They want to flood Israel proper with Palestinians, the better to drive the Jews into the sea.

But how does it happen that Israel is losing the public opinion war? How does a country that has demonstrated the value of free enterprise and democratic liberties find itself alone and isolated against world public opinion? Doesn't Israel embody American and European values? Why are so many supposedly intelligent people throwing their wholehearted support to Palestinian terrorist organizations, organizations that have made it a point of pride to oppress their own people?

Of course, Israel has always lived under siege. But it has always had a friend and ally standing by its side. Israel may be a small nation, but it has always enjoyed the full support of the world's one remaining superpower.

Until now. The Obama administration has made fairly clear that it is no longer willing to maintain a special relationship with Israel. When Obama tilted away from Israel, when he started treating it as the problem and not the solution, when he labeled Israeli settlements the primary obstacle to peace, and when it gave Israel a very public tongue-lashing over an apartment project in East Jerusalem, Israel found itself in the unenviable position of being nearly friendless.

And then, the coup de grace was delivered by Obama himself when he received the Israeli Prime Minister as he would the leader of a rogue state, a pariah regime. Obama's disgraceful snub of Netanyahu at the White House made clear to the world that the United States was stepping away from its alliance with Israel.

Countries that had maintained something like an even-handed approach to the conflict, for fear of alienating the United States, understood that they could take domestic political advantage of the situation by siding with the Palestinians. As they read the shifting sands of international political alliances, they no longer had to fear America.

When you are a relatively small state under constant siege you need all the friends you can get. When America elected Barack Obama it deprived Israel of its most important ally. With Obama leading the anti-Israel propaganda war, the rest of the world saw that it had received a green light to pile on. And to test the blockade of Gaza with perfect impunity. Without its superpower friend by its side Israel became vulnerable in ways it had never been.

The incident in the Mediterranean was a direct consequence of Obama's foreign policy naivete.

Of course, Obama himself had recognized that he had made a complete hash of the relationship with Israel. He had invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to the White House for a diplomatic do-over this week.

But the forces of barbarism and reaction much preferred the old policy of treating Netanyahu as the leader of a rogue state.

Since Netanyahu was forced to cut short his visit to North America yesterday and to rush back to Jerusalem, the flotilla did accomplish at least one of its goals.

There is a larger, ethical issue here. How do you react when a friend is in trouble? What do you do when a friend is under siege? Do you step back to evaluate the charges? Do you adopt the role of judge or juror, believing that impartiality is morally superior to taking sides?

Of course you don't. When a friend is in trouble, you should know that you are being called upon to show the virtue of loyalty. Friendship involves taking our friends at their best; it does not mean that you stand back and treat them as indicted criminals whose cases has not yet been decided.

It's not about who is at fault; who is to blame; who is to be punished. It's about who your friends are, and whether you are more loyal to your friends than to an ideal.


Anonymous said...

If one fo my friends decides to commit crimes and go to jail, then tries to drag me along, you can bet your azz he won't see from me a "display of the virtue of loyalty". There are boundaries in friendship, and the line must be drawn somewhere. Friendship is not a pact of death, and the USA has other domestic and foreign responsibilities it must consider and respect. Abandoning it all to go to hell with Israel is not a wise or even mentally healthy decision, as I am sure you know. So stop avocating suicide of our young troops - instead you should move to Israel and grab a rifle yourself. THAT would be a show of loyalty.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point, Gray... it's a lot more than he deserved.

Anonymous said...

Gray: your reply miss the mark and reveals your bias. There is absolutely no mention of Jews in that post, only of Israel - the country.

Injecting religion or race (what are Jews anyway?) in a discussion about US national sovereignty is simply an attempt to shame others into silence.