Thursday, July 27


My best friend is a Jew, I have two daughters who are converts to Judaism, and I'm a Southern Baptist, a denomination that embraces Israel to the extent that when a child I thought Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were my ancestors. But making sense out of the current Middle East crisis, as well as the decades-old hostilities in that region, is not as simple as just echoing the knee-jerk American total support of Israeli policies and actions.

Two American Jews, Eric Alterman and Matt Yglesias, speak my sentiments and thoughts very well.

Eric Alterman explains why he writes so little about the Middle East conflict:

No one ever listens. The thing about the Middle East is that nobody ever changes their mind about anything. They don’t listen. They just wait as long as they can before interrupting and then scream at one another.
Countries often go to war to solve problems because, while it doesn’t solve the problem they were facing, it does solve their political problem. But war is rarely an effective, or morally valid means to address issues that are not ones of national survival, and armies are not good at fighting popularly supported guerrilla insurgencies. Rather they feed them, much like bullets and Japanese movie monsters. This Israeli attack is nowhere near as counterproductive, dishonestly defended, incompetently conducted-and hence, morally indefensible as America’s invasion of Iraq. But it does look to be an extremely bad idea, both morally and pragmatically, nevertheless. And nothing in life is as wrong as killing and dying for no good reason.

He links to this remarkably sensible column by Matt Yglesias.

Israel's current war in Lebanon is strategically blinkered and morally obtuse. The idea that the United States or American Jews like me should support it out of friendship is akin to the notion that a real friend would lend a car to a drunk buddy after the bartender confiscates his keys. I understand why the Israeli government and public think this war is a good idea, but they're simply mistaken.

Moral obtuseness is this case follows directly from strategic foolishness. Much -- too much -- ink and hypertext has been spilled on the question of "proportionate response," which leads only to the blind alley of debating arcane points of just war theory. The more basic point is this: War is a terrible thing. Waging it is a terrible thing to do, but sometimes a necessary thing. A misguided, counterproductive action, however, can never be necessary. A foolish war is never a just one.

One can tell simply by the extreme speed with which the Israeli operation in Lebanon was launched -- with no interval for threats, diplomacy, preparation, or negotiations -- that little if any thought was put into the merits of this venture. Already, one hears word from Israel's camp that the IDF itself deems talk of "crushing" Hezbollah as little more than bluster. Eighteen years of previous warfare did not render southern Lebanon terrorist-free, and Israel now seems to have reached a consensus that past efforts to actually occupy and administer portions of Lebanon were disastrous. Israel's Hezbollah problem is not, fundamentally, one amenable to forcible resolution.
Nothing threatens American interests more in the long run than actions which push the Islamic world's masses into the arms of the extremists. That is precisely the main effect of this incursion.

Israel and its friends abroad need to face reality -- the problem that needs solving is the Palestinian problem. Were Israel's conflict with the Palestinians resolved, other challenges like Hezbollah would soon melt away. The idea of firing rockets into Israeli towns would appear absurd. Iran and Syria would have nothing to gain from supporting groups that behaved in that manner. Arab public opinion would no longer applaud the firing of rockets at random into Israeli cities.



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