29 December 2008

Evenhandedness on Israel in American media or policy? Don't hold your breath

Please see Glenn Greenwald on New Republic owner Marty Peretz's fanatical views on Israel, and on the general lack of evenhandedness in the American media. No one is justifying the firing of rockets from Gaza, but the disproportionate war being fought by Israel in response is a clear violation of International Law. Yet hardly anyone dares say this in the U.S. media, even though, as Glenn points out, it is being said in Israel.

Until we break free from the stranglehold AIPAC and other pro-Israeli right wing political organizations have on both parties in this country, as well as on American media, we will never be able to help the situation as an honest broker. Meanwhile, our continued funding of the Israeli military machine, without checks and without balances, is clearly making the situation much worse.

Update, 12/30: The following is from a post today by Greenwald (emphasis added).

By itself, the degree of full-fledged, absolute agreement -- down to the syllable -- among America's political leaders is striking, even when one acknowledges the constant convergence between the leadership of both parties. But it becomes even more striking in light of the bizarre fact that the consensus view -- that America must unquestioningly stand on Israel's side and support it, not just in this conflict but in all of Israel's various wars -- is a view which 7 out of 10 Americans reject. Conversely, the view which 70% of Americans embrace -- that the U.S. should be neutral and even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally -- is one that no mainstream politician would dare express.

In a democracy, one could expect that politicians would be afraid to express a view that 70% of the citizens oppose. Yet here we have the exact opposite situation: no mainstream politician would dare express the view that 70% of Americans support; instead, the universal piety is the one that only a small minority accept. Isn't that fairly compelling evidence of the complete disconnect between our political elites and the people they purportedly represent?

There is, of course, other evidence for that proposition: the fact that overwhelming majorities of Americans have long wanted to withdraw from Iraq was completely dismissed and ignored by our bipartisan political class, which continued to fund the war indefinitely and with no conditions. But at least there, Democratic leaders paid lip service to the idea that they agreed with that position and some Democrats went beyond rhetoric and actually tried to stop or at least limit the war. But in the case of Israel, not even that symbolic nod to American public opinion occurs among the political leadership.

The other striking aspect of this lockstep American consensus is that the Gaza situation is very complex, and a wide range of opinions fall within the realm of what is reasonable. Even many who believe that Israel's attack is morally and legally justifiable as a response to Hamas rockets and who generally side with Israel --
such as J Street -- nonetheless oppose this attack on strictly pragmatic grounds: that it won't achieve anything positive, that it will exacerbate the problem, that it makes less likely a diplomatic resolution, that there is no military solution to the rocket attacks. Others condemn Hamas rocket attacks but also condemn the devastating Israeli blockade and expanding settlements. Others still who may be supportive of Israel's right to attack at least express horror over the level of Palestinian suffering and urge greater restraint.

Anyone minimally objective and well-intentioned finds Hamas rocket attacks on random Israeli civilians to be highly objectionable and wrong, but even among those who do, one finds a wide range of views regarding the Israeli offensive. But not among America's political leadership. There, one finds total, lockstep uniformity almost more unyielding than what one finds among Israeli leaders themselves -- as though Israel's wars are, by definition, America's wars; its enemies are our enemies; its disputes and conflicts and interests are, inherently, ours; and America's only duty when Israel fights is to support it uncritically.

Whatever your views of the situation over there, the alarming lack of sensitivity to public opinion Glenn documents should give anyone pause. The lockstep accord to special interest views, which we find in our public officials' statements, and, worse, their actions, should also be of concern to anyone who values open debate and policy decisions based on the best interests of the American people.

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