The Israeli propaganda machine has called up
its allies in the media and Congress to make sure that no one will condemn
the invasion of Gaza, which has killed and wounded thousands of Palestinians,
most of them civilians and many of them children. The pictures of small bodies
lined up to be buried are convincing evidence that something is very wrong
in Gaza, but leaders in Congress from both parties have nonetheless rallied
to the cause of Israeli victimhood, putting all the blame for the conflict
on the Palestinians.
Folks outside the United States who do not have the benefit of the Israel
lobby to guide their thinking are seeing the carnage in a different way, noting
the disproportionate nature of the Israeli attack and also the unlikelihood
that Tel Aviv's stated objectives are obtainable without utterly destroying
Gaza's infrastructure and turning the strip of land into a military-occupied
moonscape. Many are also wondering what Israel's actual goals might be, since
the invasion will only empower Hamas politically, not destroy it. Is it to
tie the incoming Obama administration irrevocably to Israel's security agenda
or to strengthen the Kadima Party in the lead-up to national elections next
month? Only time will tell, but, as always, the Palestinians will bear the
brunt of the suffering, and the United States will surely pay some price for
green-lighting the Israeli offensive.
The Washington Post, as always, has not been shy in its support of
Israel. It has featured editorials and a preponderance of letters to the editor
strongly supporting the Israeli position. No less than 11 opinion pieces by
Israeli politicians Tzipi Livni and Ephraim Sneh, American professor Robert
Lieber, Israeli academic Yossi Klein Halevi, Jim Hoagland, John Bolton, Michael
Gerson, and Charles Krauthammer (twice) have all exonerated Tel Aviv in the
current crisis and accused Hamas of being solely responsible. Referring to
the invasion, Richard Cohen wrote last week that "It
takes real stupidity to blame it on Israel." That shared the page
with a piece by Anne Applebaum that asserted, astonishingly, that Hamas believes
continuing firing of rockets into southern Israel will, sooner or later, somehow
bring about the dissolution of the Jewish state." It is clear that
complete ignorance of what one is writing about has never deterred anyone on
the Post's opinion pages.
The Post also did not ignore the visual message, making sure that Israeli
suffering was seen to be at least equal to that of the Palestinians. On its
front page on Dec. 30, it featured side-by-side photos of a weeping Palestinian
woman whose five young daughters had been killed by an Israeli bomb next to
an elderly Israeli women obviously distraught because a Palestinian rocket
had "hit the town of Sderot," killing and injuring no one. That,
apparently, is parity at the Washington Post.
The New York Times has been little better, with its letters to the
editor, op-eds, and editorials supporting Israel's right "to defend itself"
countered only by a single splendid rebuttal
piece by Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi. Two pieces by the
paper's resident "conservatives" were particularly revealing. Bill
Kristol and David Brooks are a latter-day Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, though
it is sometimes difficult to tell who is the straight man and who is the clown.
Both invariably present their arguments dishonestly, setting up straw men and
laying out questionable assumptions that inevitably lead to the answer they
They also work in tandem. Kristol, a good deal less clever than Brooks, sets
up the official line on Mondays in terms that are sure to be heavily criticized,
and Brooks follows a day or two later with a much subtler presentation of the
same bill of goods. The Times reader, impressed by the greater sophistication
of Brooks, nods his head in agreement, unaware that he has also pretty much
bought into Kristol. This syncretism should not surprise anyone, however, as
Brooks once worked for Kristol at the Weekly Standard.
Israel Fights" is dedicated to convincing the reader that Israel is
fighting the Islamofascists in Gaza so that the United States will not have
to do so. According to Kristol, "An Israeli success in Gaza would be a
victory in the war on terror – and in the broader struggle for the future of
the Middle East." He describes Hamas as a "terror-friendly and almost
death-cult-like form of Islamic extremism" allied "with a terror-sponsoring
and nuclear-weapons-seeking Iranian state (aided by its sidekick Syria)."
As the U.S. is also a target of "Islamic terror," Washington must
"stand with Israel as it fights," because Israel is "doing the
United States a favor by taking on Hamas now." If Israel had "refrained
from using force to stop terror attacks, it would have been a victory for Iran."
Finally, "Israel's willingness to fight makes it more possible that the
United States may not have to."
Kristol's op-ed touches all the hot buttons – nuclear weapons, terrorists,
Iran, and even hapless Syria – and he argues that only Israel is willing to
stand up to the challenge. And he makes clear to Mr. American Reader that Israel's
savvy politicians are doing something that protects the United States and could
make it less necessary for Washington to get involved in a new shooting war.
Kristol's surmises and linkages are, of course, largely hogwash, from his embrace
of the "war on terror" concept to his demonization of Iran. Both
Hamas and Hezbollah are primarily resistance movements that have grown into
political parties, something that Kristol knows perfectly well. Neither threatens
the United States. Israel was and is a colonial power intent on strangling
the Palestinians so it can steal their land. If the Palestinians respond to
violence with violence, it is not surprising, nor is it necessarily in America's
national interest to further Israel's apartheid policies.
David Brooks' "The
Confidence War" takes off in a slightly different direction, arguing
that Israel invaded Gaza to gain the psychological advantage over its opponents.
Along the way, he observes that "extremist groups believe in the eventual
extermination of Israel . … The extremists' goal is to kill as many Jews as
possible and wait for God (or Iran) to kill the rest." Israel however,
seeks to "restrain the brazenness of the extremists … and to suppress
terrorism week by week and month by month." Israel's violence "doesn't
necessarily beget violence. It sometimes prevents it." Brooks also praises
the deadly efficacy of the Israeli assault in which numerous targets were hit
simultaneously from the air, a reversal of Lebanon 2006 and evidence of the
"recuperative powers a democracy is capable of" (sic).
For Brooks, an Israeli victory is essential to gain the upper hand over extremists
and terrorists and to "master events," his framing of the argument
coming full circle and his message reinforcing that of Kristol. Arabs who oppose
Israel are always terrorists and extremists. Brooks assumes that his readers
will agree that all of Israel's opponents in the Middle East seek the Jewish
state's extermination in spite of all the evidence that a solid majority among
Palestinians and even Iranians are willing to accept Israel's existence and
do not want a war. Israel, by way of contrast, is portrayed as a democracy
that acts with restraint and only reacts to evil. The horrors of its settlement
policy, which has been the single greatest factor in creating the current reality,
are not mentioned. Brooks' observation that violence itself can have a salutary
effect if it terrifies people enough to inhibit further violence would seem
to be fallacious if one looks at the endless of cycle of conflict that Israel's
heavy-handedness has thus far provoked.
In short, to read America's self-described newspapers of record is to receive
the Israeli propaganda line in its purest form. There are signs that many Americans
are not buying into the nonsense, that an increasing percentage sympathize
with the Palestinians and even more do not want the U.S. involved in the conflict.
The rise of the Internet as a source of information, which makes it as easy
to read papers from London or Dubai as from New York, has been a dramatic development.
It is now harder for the Israeli spinners to make believe that an attack on
a school was actually a strike against terrorism when the evidence to the contrary
can be found on YouTube. Hopefully some day, the information explosion will
completely discredit pundits like Brooks and Kristol and put them out of business.