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Rest Easy, Kansas City: Israel to the Rescue

John Brown

Apologists for Israel's incursion into Gaza have submitted a number of arguments to defend this military action -- from the contention that the Jewish state has the indubitable right to secure its existence by whatever means necessary, to the "what-would-you-do" proposition -- e.g., if your country were under rocket attack from across its borders.

Judging by the world's reaction to Israel's Gaza operation, these efforts to convince the world have had little effect. Horrors such as hundreds of Palestinians killed, the bombing of UN schools, the devastation of an impoverished land not even a third the size of Rhode Island, have persuaded non-Israelis, even if they have sympathy for the Promised Land, that the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) measures have been disproportionate, if not unwarranted and inhumane. Many throughout the globe, no matter their religious beliefs, would agree with the Vatican's statement that Israel has turned Gaza into a place resembling a concentration camp.

While Israel's current hasbara (PR/public diplomacy/propaganda/ "explanation") campaign has been a failure throughout much of the world (but does maintain domestic support for the Gaza war), there is one country where Israel continues to enjoy approval: the United States. A poll conducted in December suggests that "US support for Israel at 5-yr high" (to cite a Jerusalem Post headline). In recent weeks, however, cheerleading for Israel appears to be on the wane in the U.S., at least on the editorial pages of American media and in commentaries in the blogosphere.

Faced with this public-perception crisis, US-based pro-Israel mainstream-media apologists have recently engaged in a specially-made-for-the-USA, full-court-press PR campaign. It is based on the talking point that Israel, by striking at Hamas on its turf, has done the United States a favor, the suggestion being that Israel is sacrificing itself for your average American. Rest easy, Kansas City: Israel has come to your rescue.

Neocon William Kristol, for example, in a January 4 New York Times piece, suggests that "[a]n Israeli success in Gaza would be a victory in the war on terror," this being helpful "to any nation, like the United States, that is a target of Islamic terror." He then goes on to say that by taking on Hamas, which he considers Iran's proxy, "Israel's willingness to fight makes it more possible that the United States may not have to" -- against Iran, that is.

The Wall Street Journal, evidently singing from the same sheet of music as Mr. Kristol, argues (January 4) that "[m]uch as Mr. Obama takes office in a stronger position thanks to the Iraq surge, his foreign policy would also benefit from Israeli success in Gaza" by weakening Iran.

Meanwhile Martin Peretz, editor of the New Republic who, having claimed that the "message" of the Gaza offensive was "do not fuck with the Jews," proclaims (January 7) that Israel has helped the United States: "The I.D.F. has presented [Obama] with an opportunity to help pacify the area in a way that will advance a modest peace rather than sustain a volatile, if sometimes low-level of continuous military ping-pong."

Finally, there is the statement by Alan M. Dershowitz in The Washington Times (January 16) that unless "[t]he Hamas strategy is exposed and rejected in the marketplace of morality" (as Israel is doing), "it's coming to a theater (or school or hospital) near you."

So Israel, by killing innocent women and children "collaterally" in Gaza, is making the United States safe. One does not have to be an expert on the Middle East, however, to realize that the opposite is in fact the case. At tremendous cost to the US taxpayer at a time of worldwide hostility to the United States and a near-depression in America, Israel (the largest recipient of American foreign aid), is inflaming global anti-Americanism -- the kind of anti-Americanism that led to 9/11 -- by a deadly and costly intervention.

One Israeli soldier in Gaza said: "I don't know what we are doing here. Purification maybe." To this honest statement I add: America does not need, or indeed should approve, Israel's "purification" in Gaza. A just peace, which takes far more work than war, should be the goal of both countries. That is the best way to protect the United States.

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John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer, compiles the "Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review."

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