5 Questions On Israel For The Next Debate
As I've said before, there's been a vacuum surrounding Israel and Palestine this campaign season. Moderators have broached the issue only twice in the last 13 debates. And the most recent question, posed by Wendell Goler last week at the Fox News debate in South Carolina, was pretty weak. As Goler wound up—"Mayor Giuliani, President Bush is in the Middle East ... laying the groundwork for a Palestinian state"—there was, briefly, a glimmer of hope. Then he tossed this doozy of a softball: "I wonder, sir, how you would keep a Palestinian state from becoming a breeding ground for anti-American terrorism." One of several surreal assumptions behind the question seemed to be, "The Palestinians are prostrate, mightn't it be better if they're kept that way?" And that to the candidate with the Likudnik A-team advising him. Oh, well.
Since the debates have been so deficient in this area, I asked five well-informed Middle East observers what they would ask the candidates on the issue, if they could ask anything. The only ground rule was to keep it brief; no other boundaries. Here are their responses:
From Juan Cole of Informed Comment: Has Israeli colonization of the West Bank proceeded to the point where a two-state solution has become impractical? And, if so, isn't there now a choice between an Apartheid state or a one-state solution?
From Matthew Duss of TAPPED: Recognizing that Israel's settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal under international law, and recognizing that their relentless expansion, which has continued over the last decade despite repeated Israeli assurances to the contrary, is both a source of Palestinian suffering and a major instigator of extremism and violence, as well as being deeply prejudicial to final status negotiations, are you prepared to take a firm stand against the settlements, and to carry through with real consequences if Israel does not cease settlement expansion?
From Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States: Since 1993, the United States has pursued a policy of seeking peace between Israel and Palestine by isolating Iran. As former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk said, the two were symbiotic. Peace was necessary to isolate Iran, isolating Iran was necessary for peace. Fifteen years later, we can conclude that this strategy was an utter failure. Yet, the Bush Administration is following a similar path, seeking to create an alliance of Israel and Sunni Arab dictatorships to isolate Iran under the guise of peacemaking. In your administration, how would you approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? By repeating the Bush/Clinton policy or by pursuing a holistic approach aimed at giving all regional actors a stake in the outcome and process of peacemaking?
From Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss: Why is it that our last two presidents only made a major push on Israel/Palestine at the end of their 8-year terms, when they had nothing politically to lose? Doesn't this show that this is the big enchilada in foreign affairs and that our politics around this issue are unhealthy? What will you do differently, before your 8 years are up?
From Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus: For Senator Clinton. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, you co-sponsored a resolution condemning Hezbollah for its alleged use of "human shields." Since then, detailed on-the-ground studies by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, while highly critical of Hezbollah's responsibility for civilian deaths in Israel, have challenged the claims by the Bush administration that Hezbollah's alleged use of "human shields" contributed to the high numbers of civilian deaths from Israeli bombardment in Lebanon. Similarly, the reports of these credible human rights organizations have placed responsibility for the vast majority of the 800 Lebanese civilian deaths on the government of Israel. Are you willing to acknowledge that Israel was culpable for most of the Lebanese civilian deaths? And, as president, would you belittle the findings of human rights groups in order to support violations of international humanitarian law by U.S. allies?
I'll be sending these along to the next few debate moderators. Have a good question for the candidates on Israel? Put proposals in the comments.—Justin Elliott
I do not usually go out looking for liberal tripe (is there any other?) But one of the feeds on the right hand side of the APRPEH blog is a Google news about Israel feed. Most of the time the main stories of the day appear there originating from various news services around the world. In terms of Israel news, it doesn't really make too much of a difference which news service you read. While the product of bias can be expressed through endless variation, begging indulgence in the mixing of metaphor, when it comes to pigs in a poke, a squeal is still a squeal. Characterizing the comments of these "well-informed Middle East observers" as anything other than an exercise in anti-Jew reflux would be to unfairly attribute a benefit of the doubt to the undeserving. But then again it is "Mother Jones".
Briefly skimming the surface of the comments for the basic assumptions of the questions, objectivity requires an honest assessment of credibility. None can be found. Israel's legal right to all of Yosh (setting aside the strongest case for not only developing Yosh but for retaining sole authority in Yosh; that is, G-d deeded assignment of this land to the Jews) is not only more credible than that posed by the Arabians it is justified by history and precedent. Using the terminology of "colonization" and "apartheid" muddy the waters of reason with emotional appeals relying on sound bites. All states set their boundaries, by fighting if necessary, and determine who is a citizen and who is not entitled to remain within those borders. If this is what the so-called “well informed observer” above means, than guilty as charged. Since Israel is by right, owner of Yosh, then these decisions justifiably are as legal for Israel to make as is for any state. Further, the idea that Israel is the reason for arabian extremism somehow causing barbarians living in and around Israel to act barbaric must be measured against the actions of those arabians who do not live in and around Israel. And not only in comparison to the nearness to Israel but also to the lengths of years for which arabian barbarism has existed. If Israel is to blame for the attacks of islamic facism and arabian terrorism, what was the cause for this behavior prior to Israel's re-establishment or prior to Jews even returning to the land in large numbers in the late 1800s? Such a line of reasoning and questioning is based solely on blame the Jew illogic.
Jews, as almost everyone knows have been the most loyal of voters for the democrat party. Is it the desire to intervene in the affairs of Israel and jeopardize her security which drives these voters to the liberal's home of political power in the US? Is it the will of the Jewish liberal voters to bring an unfavorable resolution of the conflict (as if it were negotiable) thereby endangering their brethren, (the ultimate in self-hating Jewish guilt) or is it the supposed guarantee assumed by the leadership of the left that espousing such clearly anti-Israel policies has no cost? Why worry about losing Jewish voters? Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III earned a reputation of scorn amongst Jews for supposedly saying something of the sort " F--- the Jews, they don't vote for us anyhow". And the collective voice of leftist elitists, what do they say?' F--- the Jews, they'll vote for us anyhow!" The Jew is left to be the Jew. And judging from the voices printed in this leading journal of liberal thought, what conclusion can one objectively draw?
As to the final claim regarding human shields, it is astounding that anyone would question what has been an arabian war strategy for as long as anyone can remember? The US has faced the same tactics in Iraq as Israel has in every war beginning in 1948. Who cares what HRW reported? The best evidence of course, is general neglect of ascribing any rights to civilians by arabians during war. The use of bomb belts strapped to the religious youth, "our future" we in the west would call it (ergo- Whitney Houston) produces the kal v'chomer. If arabian and islamic tactics permit human bombs, surely they permit the lesser offense of shooting at Jews from within civilian residential neighborhoods, mosques and public centers? Certainly, storing munitions in schools and using ambulances to haul fighters are all therefore permissible? Since these offenses have been documented repeatedly, one wonders what motivation is driving reports that are contrary to the precedent? But to be purely logical, the question presented above ignores motive. Did Israel target civilians or military positions in Lebanon? Did Hizbollah (or substitute any of your favorite arabian death gangs) shoot at civilians during the war or military targets? The weight of evidence exceeds overwhelms deniability. Hizbollah has not earned the reputation of "terrorist organization" for nothing and Israel the reputation of being one of the most professional military organizations in the world despite the unimpressive results of the war against Hizbollah.
Maybe in future debates, the candidates should be asked to whom they extend a benefit of the doubt? Or maybe they should be asked this question instead of the questions suggested in the article: "If Israel is to make a deal with the "palestinians", provided that the “palestinian” side has a legitimate negotiating authority with the power to implement a deal and the will to do so, and the deal in your opinion served to weaken Israel's ability to defend itself and thereby damages American interests in the middle east, should US policy be to support or oppose the peace agreement?" Let this question be the truth test.
Human Shield backgrounder