Friday, March 30, 2007

The faux bravery of Israel's critics

Saul Singer shreds the (il)logic behind the Honest Broker paradigm and lambasts the pro-Palestinian elements of America's elite. Excerpts:

Indeed, Jimmy Carter, Nicholas Kristof, Profs. Walt and Mearsheimer, George Soros, Zbigniew Brzezinski and others have all painted themselves as brave pioneers exploring forbidden lands at the risk of being branded anti-Semites. Yet Carter's book is a best-seller, and none of the above have had trouble disseminating their views in the most prestigious publications in the land.

Stranger still is the attempt of these supposed dissidents to claim such status when their policy goal, far from being suppressed, is virtually universal: a Palestinian state. Is there any country or mainstream politician, even in Israel, who opposes this outcome? This call is not exactly samizdat.

Even the more controversial contention that Israel is blocking such a state can hardly be considered subversive. This has been the mainstream Western intellectual and diplomatic view since 1967. If anything, what is remarkable is the persistence of this view after Yitzhak Rabin headed down the road to a state in 1993, after Ehud Barak offered one in 2000, and after Ariel Sharon started creating one unilaterally in 2005.

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If country X attacks country Y, it does not make a lot of sense to try to make peace between them by being completely evenhanded, thereby precluding any distinction between aggressor and victim. When Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, would it have made sense for England to call for "restraint from both sides"?

This, however, is essentially how the West, including the US, approaches the Arab-Israel conflict. Every statement or proposal must list what Israel and the Palestinians must do, and these lists, according to the "honest broker" paradigm, must at least seem to be balanced and tough on both sides.

THE PROBLEM here is that automatically acting as if "both sides" are equally to blame for a conflict provides a huge incentive for aggression. Why not attack, when not only will you not be blamed for it, but your victim will get the flak? This is exactly what happened during the waves of suicide bombings against Israel, when escalating Arab aggression not only failed to produce more pressure on the Arab side, but resulted in increased pressure on Israel.

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