The Israeli raid on relief supplies going to Gaza was certainly a bad move, both on humanitarian grounds and in terms of public relations. It is a shame that so many people are framing the events in Israel and Gaza as being for or against Israel. It is It is possible to understand why Israel has gone to extreme measures,seeing its survival at stake, and to support Israel’s survival, while still opposing some of Israel’s actions.
Supporting Israel”s safety and continued existence is like supporting the United States in defending ourselves against terrorism while also opposing the Iraq War. During the war the question wasn’t one of being for or against the United States (even if many right wingers tried to frame it this way).
Just as American liberals opposed George Bush’s acts in the so-called “war on terror” while still supporting the United States, many American liberals also support Israel while opposing many of its actions, especially when led by those on the far right such as Benjamin Netanyahu.
While written before the current incident, Ezra Klein had an excellent post earlier in the month on The Conflict Between Zionism and Liberalism which was motivated by a response to Peter Beinart’s recent essay in The New York Review of Books. Klein wrote:
This disagreement often falls across generational lines. As Beinart says, young Jews do not remember Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria massing forces in the run-up to the Six-Day War. They do not remember a coalition of Arab forces streaming across the Sinai on Yom Kippur in order to catch the Jewish state by surprise. Their understanding of Israel was not forged watching the weak and threatened state improbably repel the attacks of potent adversaries.
The absence of such definitional memories has contributed to a new analysis of the Israeli situation. Today, Israel is far, far, far more militarily powerful than any of its assailants. None of the region’s armies would dare face the Jewish state on the battlefield, and in the event that they tried, they would be slaughtered. Further stacking the deck is America’s steadfast support of Israel. Any serious threat would trigger an immediate defense by the most powerful army the world has ever known. In effect, Israel’s not only the strongest power in the region, but it has the Justice League on speed dial.
That is not to say that the Jewish state is not under threat. Conventional attacks pose no danger, but one terrorist group with one nuclear weapon and one good plan could do horrible damage to the small, dense country. That threat, however, is fundamentally a danger born of the Arab world’s hatred of Israel. It follows, then, that hastening the peace that will begin to ease that hatred makes Israel safer. Exacerbating the tensions that feed it, conversely, only makes the threat more severe.
And to many of us, it looks like Israel is making the threat more severe. Its decision to pummel the city of Gaza from the air in a misguided attempt to punish Hamas. The ascension of Avigdor Lieberman and the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. Neither an overwhelming assault certain to kill many Arab civilians or a political movement that seeks to disenfranchise Israeli Arabs — whose respected position in Israeli politics has long been a point of pride for Jews — seems likely to begin the long process required to get back to the place where peace is conceivable…
But Israel has to walk with care. Previous generations might have believed in “Israel, right or wrong.” Their replacements may not be as willing to sacrifice moral perspective in service of tribal allegiance. And much more importantly than that, every day that relations with the Arab world don’t improve — or, more to the point, continue to worsen — is another day that Israel remains under threat. For those of us who worry about the state’s safety and believe the primary threat is terrorism combined with more potent weaponry, the continuation of current trends is a terrifying thought.
The Israeli right wing has to learn how their actions are counterproductive to the long term security of their country–much like the actions of the American right wing are counterproductive to our long term security.