Sunday, September 9, 2007

Making Peace With God's Liberal Warriors

From the perspective of international opinion one of the biggest weaknesses in Israel’s case is the existence of the settlements. Since 1967, the Israeli government has placed or has allowed over 250,000 of its own citizens to move into the West Bank and Gaza, which it had captured from Egypt and Jordon during the Six Day War. The United Nations and the international community have dubbed these areas as occupied territory and have insisted that Israel withdraw from them. Even worse we repeatedly see, within the western media, subtle and not so subtle attempts to equate the Israeli occupation of these lands with Arab terrorism. Witness, for example, the recent CNN program, God’s Warriors. (If you have not seen the program you can find it in its entirety on Youtube.)
It is easy to deal with the direct moral equation. Anyone who claims to not be able to not be able to see the difference between living on disputed territory, or even illegally living on land that belongs to others, and blowing up civilians is wicked, insane or lying. The difficult thing is to deal with this moral equivocation when it is done through innuendo. How many times have we seen this: Both the Israelis and the Palestinians are being pushed by radicals in their own camps or that the radicals on both sides do not want peace. As if words like hawkish, extreme, fundamentalist or radical meant the same thing in both the Israeli and Arab contexts. Now of course Christina Amanpour has enriched our political vocabulary with the terms God’s Jewish Warriors, God’s Muslim Warriors and God’s Christian Warriors. God’s warriors you know those crazy people, who are responsible for all the trouble in the world. Those people who take their religion more seriously then one should in polite company. They want to enforce their views on others, (i.e. do things that make more civilized people uncomfortable) and even resort to violence. Whether or not this is fair, the settler movement is a weapon with which serves to muddy the moral waters.
This brings us to the essential weakness of the settler’s case, one that it has ignored. In justifying their continued presence in the territories, they have focused on defending their actions on biblical, moral and security grounds. They step around the diplomatic and public relations issues. When confronted with these issues, defenders of the settler movement argue that the negative view of the settler movement is simply due to anti-Semitism and that it is simply an excuse to attack Israel; if it was not the settlements it would be something else. To me this simply becomes a Jewish version of the leftist a tyrant is someone who checks up on what library books people checkout argument. In both cases the line of thinking demonstrates a failure of the imagination. If the Devil is anyone who disagrees with you then what word do you use to describe a man with goat hooves, horns and a trident? It is bad enough when liberals seem to be unable to see a moral difference between President George W. Bush and Osama bin Ladin. Jews in this case have even less of an excuse. The anti-Semites really are at our gate. Hamas is in power in the Palestinian authority. Ahmajinedad, that lunatic whose name I cannot pronounce for the life of me, is in power in Iran, free to host holocaust denial conferences. Amanpour may be a lot of things, including an incompetent liberal (I do believe that there is such a thing as competent liberals) and absolutely ignorant about religion. I do not think she is an anti-Semite. She sees the world through the framework of modern day liberalism. She accepts its models and tries to fit everything into its narrative. In the liberal narrative religious fundamentalists are intolerant and seek to impose their beliefs on others even through the use of violence. Wars are fought because both sides failed to understand each other; hence both sides are automatically guilty. All that is needed for peace is for all sides in a conflict to embrace tolerance. I may reject this way of thinking, you might also. The fact remains that this is the narrative through which the vast majority of the West sees the world. Until there is major intellectual sift we are going to be stuck with this worldview. I am trying to do my part to bring about such an intellectual sift, it is one of the reasons why I write this blog, but I do not expect to things change anytime soon. This means that if we want to get public opinion on our side then we are going to have to make our case within the context of the liberal narrative. If this means dismantling settlements then so be it.
I admit that there are people who are going to hate us no matter what we do. I except that no matter what we will be faced with a full scale Arab propaganda assault which will attempt to demonize us. That should not blind us to the fact that there are millions of well meaning liberals out there who would be willing to support us if we played by their rules. That means paying a price, such as the painful pullout from Gaza. Even today I am not sure if Israel made the right decision or not but this action has benefited Israel. Do you think that it is a coincidence that even the European Union is not supporting Hamas and that Israel was allowed to wage its war in Lebanon for as long as it did without the world jumping in? Israel gained a level of moral credibility from its actions. The world saw Israel make an incredible sacrifice and that Palestinians responded by electing Hamas. Israel was willing to play by the liberal rulebook. It went after its own “extremists” and embraced the “path of peace.” Hamas has refused to even pretend to play by the liberal playbook. It refused to even acknowledge Israel. This type of moral reasoning may make me sick and it may not be fair, but this is the world that we live in and these are the rules that we have to play by.

No comments: