Friday, August 18, 2006

Israel, we hardly know ye

Well, this is interesting:

A majority of Americans thinks the U.S. should not ally itself with either Israel or Lebanon in the current conflict that spans the borders of those countries, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows.

The survey was conducted Aug. 11–15, 2006, and included 1,018 interviews. It carries a margin of error of +/– 3.1 percentage points.

While 52% said the U.S. should remain neutral, 34% said it should back Israel in its fight against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. Almost no one thinks the U.S. should stand with Lebanon against Israel, the poll shows.
I'm not surprised by that last; but then again, the US media quickly buried the deaths at Cana, and we never hear about things like this:

More than 15,000 tonnes of fuel oil has leaked from Lebanon's Jiyye power plant since it was attacked by Israeli warplanes on 13 July. As if deliberately to hamper any attempts to staunch the flow of oil, Israel then bombed the power plant again two days later, preventing emergency workers from gaining access to the site. An indication of the scale of the disaster comes from satellite photos showing a 3,000-square-kilometre slick along two-thirds of Lebanon's coastline. The oil has now begun to wash up in Syria.
Or, for that matter, this:

Violence against the land and its inhabitants has become part of the same matrix of aggression. Perhaps most revealing was Israel's destruction of a solar power project in Gaza in an air strike on 28 June. That environmentally friendly technology could deliver a better future for Palestinians is not part of Tel Aviv's plan. As far as Israel is concerned, the Palestinians have no future - except as a dispossessed underclass, deprived of land and identity, segregated by a four-metre-high wall into a network of South African-style bantustans. This is not a future any people can or should accept, not in South Africa, nor in Palestine. And so, the war goes on.
No, we in America are kept in the dark, kept wondering why no one likes us. Do I mean by this example that Israel is singularly evil? No. But the general impression in America is that Israel alone in the region is a bastion of light and reason, and is surrounded by peoples who hate it for that light and reason, or perhaps for its "freedom and democracy." And I sometimes despair of Americans ever understanding that there is a reason for the anger and violence of the people of the Middle East, and it is in part because of the violence done to them.

That said, does the Zogby poll mean anything? Well, the most talked about Democratic Senator right now is Hillary Clinton, of New York. Can you imagine a New York politician complaining about the actions of Israel? The hottest race in the Senate seems to be in Connecticut. Joe Lieberman is Jewish, which he clearly thinks is a political selling point, and Ned Lamont backed Israel's actions in Lebanon. Do I mean to indicate a "conspiracy"? No, of course, not; this is political reality. There is support for Israel among Southern fundamentalists, too, who may not even have a synagogue in their city. I can't imagine my Texas senators coming out in support of Lebanon, even if the facts reported in "The New Statesman" were published on the front page of every major newspaper in this country. The simple fact is the political power in this country is heavily tilted toward support for Israel; that is not going to change. But support for foreign action is once again waning. Partly because we do it so badly, so clumsily; partly because we don't understand why no one likes us, which in turn makes our support for our clumsy and immoral efforts, so clumsy and immoral.

Reinhold Niebuhr argued that we can't expect nations to behave in a moral manner. I don't think, however, that is carte blanche for nations to do whatever they perceive to be in their national interests at any given time. Perhaps at least an ethic as Sartre imagined, one that recognizes the responsibility of choosing ethically because your choice is for all of humankind, is applicable. No person is an island, after all; neither are nations.

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