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William C. Altreuter
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Sunday, August 03, 2014

I am generally hesitant to comment on whatever happens to be going on in Israel at any given moment, basically because a lot of people who I like and respect have strong opinions on the topic, and almost certainly know more than I do about it. However, it does seem to me that if one reason to favor Israel in its conflicts is that it is a democracy in a region that doesn't really have any or many others (I suppose it depends on where you think, or what you think, Turkey is), then I have to say that I don't think Israel is behaving the way that democracies ought. It looks kinda to me as though Israel is verging on-- if it has not already become-- an apartheid state, and at this point in history we ought to know that being an apartheid state is very, very wrong, and very, very dangerous. I say this in the full knowledge that the United States was itself an apartheid state for most of its history-- indeed, that's why I feel empowered to say it. One might counter that Jim Crow America was different because the oppressed African-American population in the US was not an "existential" threat in the same way that Hamas or its enablers are thought to be, but I'm not so sure that this is a valid distinction. Absolutely the Boers in South Africa felt their existence threatened, and it seems to me that when the smoke is cleared away that's how James O. Eastland and Lester Maddox and the rest of them felt as well.

It also seems to me that it is unproductive to think of the situation in Israel as an ancient animosity. I mean, it seems like on some level it certainly is, just as antisemitism seems to be just about as ancient as Judaism, but what good does thinking about the problem that way do anyone? It's bad enough that the problem seems more accurately described as going back to 1948-- that should be ancient enough.

As long as I am wading into these waters, one other point. It seems pretty obvious that the reason Israel is targeted by so many other regimes in the region is that it is a convenient distraction for the oppressive, non-democratic regimes in the neighborhood. In addition to straight up antisemitism -- a historically easy pretext-- there is also the fact of substantial relative deprivation, now exacerbated by conditions in Gaza. Again, the example of the United States is instructive: when you kick the underdog, the underdog will lash back. There were a lot of cities in the US that burned when we failed to recognize this.

So what's the answer? I have no idea if there is an answer at all. It seems to me that wars basically end when one or both sides become too exhausted to continue, and that doesn't seem to be happening. I'd feel a lot better about it if I thought anyone on either side was prepared to concede that the present conditions are madness, but that doesn't seem to be happening.  

| Comments:
I may be wrong, but the rhetoric I am seeing from pro-Israeli commenters during THIS particular go-round seems to have crossed a line into outright bloodthirst. More and more I'm seeing things like "Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism!", and the type of "You're either with us or with Hamas" rhetoric that our own leaders deployed in the run-up to the disaster in Iraq. Perhaps the best comment I've seen is a friend of mine on Facebook, who said simply, "Opposing police brutality does not automatically put one on the side of the criminals." I'm not even certain he was referring to Israel/Gaza in saying that, but it seems very applicable to me. Every time this old fight starts again, it gets harder for me to pick the good guy -- especially when Netanyahu strikes me as a man who deeply, deeply, DEEPLY wants to go to war in Gaza once and for all.
 
Jimmy Carter is a guy who absolutely knows the scene, and has some interesting things to say here. However, I think he is probably engaging in wishful thinking if he seriously believes that Hamas cares about its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, and that's a problem.
 
(And that said, I have just done what I have been trying to avoid doing: I assumed bad faith on the part of one of the parties.)
 

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