Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, July 18th, 2006.

So Much for the Cedar Revolution

blogging, Middle East

As documented in the last post, one of the casualties of the current war could be the government of Lebanon. You remember the “Cedar Revolution“? Just last year our State Department was congratulating Lebanon for its democratic elections, the first elections held after the withdrawal of Syrian troops — “This is an important first step in fulfilling the aspirations of the Lebanese people for a sovereign and democratic government.” Last year the righties gleefully gave credit for the liberation of Lebanon to George W. Bush because, you know, Bush makes the sun rise and the rain fall and all that.

I just heard a Time magazine reporter speak on television. He said most Lebanese are pro-American, but now they think America has abandoned them. And I have to say I’m surprised at how quickly the righties have abandoned Lebanon. In 2005 they couldn’t say enough about the wonderfulness of freedom-loving Lebanese. Now it seems they’ve completely disconnected the “good” Lebanon of 2005 from the “bad” Lebanon of 2006.

Among the several possible negative side-effects of the current strife is that the fledgling democracy in Lebanon could fail completely and be replaced by civil war and chaos and a lot more terrorism. This would be extremely unfortunate.

At the far end of the loony scale is Debbie Schlussel, who is ranting that Americans caught in Lebanon this week are Hezbollah Supporters, and they shouldn’t expect American taxpayer’s money to rescue them. Yes, I know, we all figured out a long time ago that Schlussel needs to be heavily medicated and probably muzzled. But to the news that American citizens in Lebanon are expected to reimburse the government for their rescue, which I think is outrageous, Schlussel says,

One thing is lost in all the press coverage of the whining Americans who went to Lebanon of their own accord and now want us to pick up the tab to get them out.


Most of them are Shi’ite Muslims, many of whom hold dual U.S. and Lebanese citizenship. Many are anchor babies born here to Muslims in the U.S. illegally. Some are illegal aliens who became citizens through rubber-stamping Citizenship and Immigration Services (and its INS predecessor) coupled with political pressure by spineless politicians.

Schlussel is a little vague about how she knows this is true, except to argue that many American citizens in Lebanon are from Dearborn, Michigan. Well, that clinches it.

A few people in the comments — one of whom says she is a Christian and American citizen in Lebanon — argue that Schlussel is wrong about the majority of American citizens in Lebanon — but Schlussel (in ALL CAPS) argues back that THIS IS MY AREA OF EXPERTISE. (She knows Dearborn, Michigan, very well.)

But then some Debbie fans weighed in —

“One thing is lost in all the press coverage of the whining Americans who went to Lebanon of their own accord and now want us to pick up the tab to get them out.”

Here Here….To me that says it all, I just love all these “Americans” that call themselves Americans who live elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East.

When you leave the security blanket of this great country, you are subject to the laws and lay of the land you travel to, simple as that.


If there were no war, they would anyway pay for their return ticket at some point, right? So why should the US foot their bills?

Well, maybe because American citizens and American taxpayers often are the same people, and their taxes pay to maintain the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, among other things.

In response to the American in Lebanon —

Your story and self-proclaimed patriotism isn’t all that convincing. What were you doing there if you love the US so much? Did someone hold a gun at your head and force you to stay in Lebanon? You went there out of your own will, so you pay for the ticket back home, if you really consider the US your ‘home’. Thats the least you can do.

Got that? If you’re a real patriot, don’t leave home.

The U.S. State Department posted a warning about travel to Lebanon on July 13, 2006, which updated another warning of May 2, so I suppose the State Department can say, “I told you so.” However, the warning also says that the American embassy in Lebanon is there to help American citizens.

If you’re going to Iran, on the other hand, the State Department lets you know you’re on your own — “The U.S. government does not currently have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to American citizens in Iran.”

Lebanon is celebrated as a choice tourist destination in the Middle East, and American tourists continue to go to the Middle East wars or no wars. If you are going to do the Grand Tour of the Holy Land, Lebanon certainly should be included on the tour. Well, maybe not right now. But it seems a bit harsh to tell Americans who traveled to Beirut before the fighting started that they shouldn’t expect rescue.

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The Spigot of Diplomacy

Bush Administration, Middle East

I’m generally ambivalent about Andrea Mitchell and David Ignatius, but they had an interesting discussion on yesterday afternoon’s Hardball. It might be that they sounded unusually balanced and intelligent because of the quality of the other guests. But I’m pasting in some of the transcript, anyway (emphasis added).

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much Karby Leggett who is on the phone from Jerusalem. Great piece in the “Wall Street Journal” today Karby. Let‘s bring in NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and “Washington Post” columnist David Ignatius. Andrea, you‘re always on top of these things. Is there something to be on top of right now? Is there a real peace effort at this point?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There isn‘t a peace effort from the United States and not from Israel because, the real goal of Israel, as stated very publicly, is to take out those Hezbollah rockets, particularly the larger and longer range missile that they have long feared, they claim that they took out one rocket with a 1,200-pound warhead that has a 65-mile plus range, which could reach Tel Aviv. They say they did it. U.S. intelligence said don‘t disbelieve that.

In other words, we don‘t have hard confirmation on the ground. So far, they have found that Israel‘s claims have been correct on these matters, that Hezbollah has this increasingly large and lethal arsenal, supplied by Iran, and unless and until the Lebanese government can control that southern Lebanese area, that border area, and a considerable buffer zone to that area, Israel will continue this.

MATTHEWS: Not to be demoralizing to the Israeli cause in terms of their perspective, but what stops one of the allies of Hezbollah to simply replace any rockets destroyed by Israel?

MITCHELL: That‘s exactly why Israel has been bombing every access to Lebanon, the port, the bridges, the airport, the roads from Damascus. They have tried to stop that resupply, as well as stopping any exit for those captured soldiers that could be brought across the border to Syria.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to David Ignatius. You‘ve always struck me as somewhere in the middle politically in trying to understand this Middle East crisis that never seems to end. Do you think this one will have an ending in the near term? Will there a peace cease fire, based upon mutual purposes here?

DAVID IGNATIUS, “WASHINGTON POST” COLUMNIST: It is entirely likely there will be a cease fire down the road. I think Israel wants to keep shooting, wants to keep attacking, having gone in until it really has degraded Hezbollah‘s military capability. The problem, what worries me is that the real consequence of what‘s happened over the last week is that the Lebanese government, in which the United States has a big investment, this was one of the few U.S. success stories in the region, really is going to have trouble recovering the idea that it can easily assert authority again, take control, disarm Hezbollah, which Israelis talk about as their goal. It‘s a wonderful idea, I just don‘t see it happening as a consequence of this war.

MATTHEWS: Dan Ayalon was just on. I want you both to respond to this. Dan Ayalon, of course a well known ambassador in the United States from Israel, says that he believes the heart and mind of the Lebanese government is to try to get rid of Hezbollah but they are afraid to say anything until they‘re crushed. Is that accurate, Andrea?

MITCHELL: Well, I think that was initially the heart and mind of the Lebanese government but they have now seen the infrastructure of their country destroyed by Israel. That‘s exactly what David Ignatius‘ just said is the real risk. There‘s a tipping point here.

This government couldn‘t control its own social services. Hezbollah had gradually become the most popular political force, Shia political force in Lebanon as it was and actually crossing sectarian grounds there by providing social services, by controlling some of the domestic ministries, by electing people to local officials and to parliament. They were a government force on the civilian side, as well as controlling those militias that are supported with great amounts of money from Iran. There is a real risk here that this government will collapse and you will have a civil war. Exactly what David is outlining.

MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s look right now and move to a somewhat lighter vain, potentially. Let look at what President Bush said today in the meeting when he was still over in Saint Petersburg.


TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN: I think the thing that is really difficult is you can‘t stop this unless you get the international presence agreed.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She‘s going. I think Condi‘s going to go pretty soon.

BLAIR: Well that‘s all that matters, if you see, it will take some time to get out of there. But at least it gives people …

BUSH: It‘s a process I agree. I told her your offer too.

BLAIR: Well it‘s only, or if she‘s gonna or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. See if she goes out, she‘s got to succeed as it were, where as I can just go out and talk.

BUSH: See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and it‘s over.


MATTHEWS: Well, skipping the expletive, Andrea, what does it mean to get Syria to stop Hezbollah from doing what it is doing. Is that as simple as he made it sound?

MITCHELL: Not at all. Because he may be correct that there has been not enough pressure from Kofi Annan and others with relationships with Damascus, but, I mean, let‘s look back. Warren Christopher went 33 times to Damascus and was criticized for a rather ineffectual show of diplomacy. But, we have no relationship with Damascus for a lot of reasons on both sides.

This administration has basically put off limits direct talks with Syria or Iran. We have no leverage with either party. We have to rely on others. And to get Syria now to back off? Why would it be in Syria‘s interests to back off when in fact Hezbollah is its proxy?

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you David, I‘ve been reading your columns for years. You‘ve got contacts in the Druze community and all those people over there. Are they all anti-American now? Anti-Israeli?

IGNATIUS: No Lebanese like to see their country pounded. And you wouldn‘t want to go around waving an Israeli flag in Lebanon. There are many Lebanese who are sick of Hezbollah. The idea of this militia, which has pitched Israel across the border, taking out bridges, power stations, making life miserable. That upsets people. And they‘re sick of it. I think the key here is to have a more aggressive, engaged U.S. diplomacy in this part of the world.

As Andrea said, we don‘t even have an ambassador in Damascus who could start this process. If we want to build up the Lebanese government so that it someday can control all the territory of Lebanon, make it safer for everybody, for Israelis, for Lebanese, for everybody, we‘ve got to get more involved. That‘s not going to happen and President Bush in that comment that was picked up by the microphone, talks as if diplomacy is a little spigot you can turn off and on. Let‘s send Condi. Let‘s pick up the phone and let‘s have Kofi do this. It doesn‘t work that way. It requires sustained engagement over time. And that‘s been missing. We‘re paying the price for it.

MATTHEWS: Why is he so different than his father?

IGNATIUS: Dr. Freud needs to come in on this I think. His father was a person who knew the Middle East deeply. He traveled and he knew the leaders. He knew it from an intelligence standpoint. He had run the CIA, the texture, the feel on your fingertips of the Middle East, the father had. The son never really has had that. To him, I think, as to many Israeli leaders, this is really about toughness. About standing up to adversaries. It is not about the feel and texture of diplomacy.

MITCHELL: In fact, Chris, if I may, second that. The only foreign trip that George W. Bush took before becoming president was to Israel. And Ariel Sharon, this was when he was defense minister, I believe or housing minister in charge of settlements, not when he was prime minister even, took him north in a helicopter to see the proximity of that border there.

MATTHEWS: I know that trip very well, I‘ve been on it. It is called the Likud trip. I know that trip.

MITCHELL: And that is to toughen up American politicians and other visitors to just how vulnerable Israel really is. But, he had not been to Europe. He had not been, aside with from as a kid with his father to Asia, when his father was the special envoy in Beijing, he had not been anywhere else in the world. His sole experience is through an Israeli prism.

MATTHEWS: We‘ll come right back. It is getting very interesting here. Andrea Mitchell and David Ignatius are staying with us. And when we do return, we‘ll get an update on the evacuation of Americans trapped in Lebanon right now. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. As the fighting rages on between Israel and Hezbollah, 25,000 Americans remain in Lebanon. Tonight plans are underway to evacuate them, to get them out. At least those who want to get out. NBC‘s Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski joins us now with the latest.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the State Department estimates that of the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, 24,000 of those have dual citizenship, Lebanese and U.S. and they estimate that only about 5,000 of those may want to get out of Lebanon and fast. So far, U.S. military helicopters have air lifted only 63 Americans out of Lebanon to the nearby island of Cyprus. At that rate, it would take forever to evacuate all 5,000 or so.

So beginning tomorrow, the U.S. has chartered a Greek cruise, The Orient Queen, to begin ferrying Americans, 750 at a time, for the five hour sail from Lebanon to Cyprus. Now the U.S. warship the USS Gonzales, a destroyer, will accompany and escort the Greek cruise ship and provide force protection. And within days some 2,200 marines, an amphibious task force, including the air craft carrier Iwo Jima, are expected to arrive in the area, again to provide force protection if need.

But U.S. military and Pentagon officials say those warships will maintain a discreet distance from the shoreline of Lebanon, so as not to provide any provocation or targets. Because after all, it was in the early ‘80s that the U.S. was attacked twice by Hezbollah when they bombed the U.S. embassy, and the marine barracks at the Beirut International Airport, killing 241 marines. Chris?

MATTHEWS: Thank you, NBC‘s Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon.

We‘re back right now with NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and “Washington Post” columnist David Ignatius. Listening to Dan Ayalon today, the Israeli ambassador, I thought I was listening to a Bush administration official, Andrea, because he kept talking about how everybody who is opposed to us or Israel in that whole region of the world is basically the same person. They‘re a terrorist. Are they sort of aping our line or we‘re aping their line, what is it now?

MITCHELL: Well I think there is a confluence of interest here between the United States and Israel. The U.S. would not mind at all and is permitting through this green light diplomatically, permitting Israel to go after Hezbollah because the U.S., this administration clearly wants Hezbollah wiped out, wants to be able to also deal an indirect blow to Iran, its chief sponsor, and wants to try to stand up that democracy.

But as David and I were discussing with you just a minute ago, the real problem is whether that Lebanese fledgling democracy, which was created with the withdrawal of Syrian forces 18 months ago can really stand up, with having been beaten down so far and with the infrastructure of Lebanon so badly destroyed.

MATTHEWS: David, the same question. Are we speaking the same language? The government over there, which is sort of a combination of Likud and some more moderating forces and this administration. Are they speaking the same world view here?

IGNATIUS: You know increasingly, it the same language, which I have this weird sense of deja vu, Chris. I was in Beirut in 1982 when the Israelis invaded. That was another big roll of the dice. It was an effort to transform the situation. That time the terrorists were the PLO and Yasser Arafat.

Israelis rolled the tanks all the way to Beirut thinking we‘ll finally crush them in their lair. That proved to be a strategic disaster for Israel by the account of every Israeli I talked to. And I worry that in a sense, Israel may be repeating the same mistake. It‘s understandable they want to go after the people who were firing rockets at their cities, who were kidnapping their soldiers.

The question is whether they‘ve taken the bait of this adversary. You know, Lebanon swallows up invaders, as we have found, as the Israelis found. It is a merciless kind of battlefield. And I just worry that at the end of this mini war, whatever you want to call it, Israel won‘t really be very much more secure than it was before it started. And that should worry everybody.

MATTHEWS: David Ignatius of the “Washington Post,” Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, our chief foreign affairs correspondent. When we return, we‘ll get back and give you the latest from Haifa, where Israelis continue to live with the threat, in fact the reality of Hezbollah rockets. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


UN Ambassador Bolton says there is no “moral equivalence” between Israeli civilians killed by terrorist attack and Lebanese civilians killed by Israeli bombs. However, there may be a moral equivalence between Bolton and a cockroach. (See also Shakespeare’s Sister.)

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow accused Helen Thomas of representing “the Hezbollah view.”

Taylor Marsh writes that, at the G8 Summit, President Bush groped German Chancellor Andrea Merkel. She’s got the photos to prove it. See also Steve M. Gross.

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Hunker Down, Richard Cohen

Middle East, News Media

I’m having trouble pinpointing Richard Cohen’s exact point in this column. He seems to be saying that Israel is in a perilous position just because it Is, and it Is where it is, so its best recourse if it wants to survive as a nation is to hunker down and stop being so aggressive to the neighbors. Israel, he says, should have noticed by now that aggression comes back to bite it.

If he’s saying what I think he’s saying I agree, generally, but his reasoning is murky, and righties don’t seem to have gotten past the first paragraph:

The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.

Righties, who have below-average reading comprehension skills at best, have variously interpreted this column, thus: Cohen says Israel should curl up and die; Richard Cohen wants Israel to be bombed out of existence; Cohen is a Jew who hates Jews; Richard Cohen is stupid; Richard Cohen is ignorant; etc.

A couple of months ago Mr. Cohen complained that liberals were mean to him. I’d hate to see the emails he’s getting from righties now.

See also Matt Yglesias:

“Israel itself is a mistake . . . the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now” is a bit too quick and easy. … The “mistake” here would be Arab rejection of the UN partition plan which, at the time, I’m sure looked to them like a really clever piece preventative security gambit but obviously turned out to be a total fiasco. The lesson would be something about not pushing things too far, not rejecting reasonable favorable compromise proposals, not doing things with giant downside risk, etc.

Yes, that’s closer to it, I think. Whether that’s what Richard Cohen had in mind is hard to say, however.

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I Love New York

conservatism, Middle East

Did anyone see the “Stand With Israel” rally in New York City yesterday? I did not, as I am just now hearing about it. The wondrously dim Pamela of Atlas Shrugs has photos up and gushes it was overwhelming. “Tens of thousands,” she says.

As Tbogg observes, “Next thing you know Boston will be overrun by the Irish next March 17th.”

Listen, folks, if you throw a pro-Israel rally in New York City and only tens of thousands show up, we’re not talking “overwhelming.” We’re talking “Where is everybody?” In New York City you can get tens of thousands by handing out free bagels. I’ve been to three anti-war and anti-Bush events in New York City that drew hundreds of thousands, easy.

What was overwhelming yesterday was the heat, however, which possibly discouraged many people from joining the rally. But I wasn’t there. Eyewitness accounts from lefties are welcome.

Most of the time, righties don’t like New York. They loved New York immediately after September 11, but that didn’t last long. You might remember when John McCain was dissed at the New School commencement this past May. The entire Right Blogosphere went on a “we hate New York” rampage.

Today, the righties love New York City again, because New York City rallied for Israel. But last week, Eric Alterman wrote,

I’d like to see some attention paid to the exploitation of right-wing American anti-Semitism that underlies the Bush campaign against The New York Times and the rest of what Republican Rep. Peter King called its “arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda.” As Jon Carrol observed, “The New York Times contains the word ‘New York.’ Many members of the president’s base consider ‘New York’ to be a nifty code word for ‘Jewish.’” This anti-Times campaign reminds me of the conservative campaign to slander George Soros, which was also a sometimes explicit, usually implicit exploitation of traditional Jewish stereotypes. Remember Tony Blankley calling Soros a “robber baron” and “pirate capitalist,” and “a man who, when he was plundering the world’s currencies, in England in ’92, he caused the Southeast Asian financial crisis in ’97. He said that he has no moral responsibility for the consequences of his financial actions…. He is a self-admitted atheist; he was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust.” (Blankley later wrote me that his comments were “both incomplete and pregnant with a malicious implication I did not intend.” It’s all here.) Anyway, there it is.

Jon Carrol’s full remarks are here:

Also, the name of the New York Times contains the word “New York.” Many members of the president’s base consider “New York” to be a nifty code word for “Jewish.” It is very nice for the president to be able to campaign against the Jews without (a) actually saying the word “Jew” and (b) without irritating the Israelis. A number of prominent Zionist groups think the New York Times is insufficiently anti-Palestinian, so they think the New York Times isn’t Jewish enough.

More on Tony Blankley’s infamous antisemitic smear of George Soros here. As Kevin Drum encapsulates,

Translation: he’s a Jew-hating Jew, he’s a greedy Jew, he’s a conniving and heartless Jew, he’s an atheistic Jew, and he’s a Jew who must have been (if you get my drift, wink wink) a Nazi collaborator. Anyone who’s not a child knows perfectly well what Blankley was saying here.

Of course, if you want to find examples of someone spewing antisemitism while accusing others of antisemitism, you can’t beat Ann Coulter.

In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats’ other big idea – too nuanced for a bumper sticker – is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There’s Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew – along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering. …

… The Democrats’ urge to assert a Jewish heritage is designed to disguise the fact that the Democrats would allow the state of Israel to perish as Palestinian suicide bombers slaughter Jewish women and children. Their humble-origins claptrap is designed to disguise the fact that liberals think ordinary people are racist scum.

Dave Neiwert commented,

How exactly is Lieberman’s Jewishness a form of “pandering” anyway? Should he stop being Jewish just so Democrats can’t be accused of sucking up to the Jews? And should Howard Dean get a divorce so that no one will think he’s pandering?

But most noticeable is this undercurrent: Coulter seems to believe that the only reason Jews would vote for Democrats is that because they’re too stupid to recognize pandering for its own sake. Kind of the same reason blacks vote Democratic, right?

This is, throughout, a column reptilian in its nastiness. Its core thesis is that Democrats try to score political points by exhibiting compassion. What she clearly misses is that Republicans fail to do likewise not out of principle, but because, frankly, they rarely bother to exhibit much in the way of compassion themselves, unless it is for environmental polluters, Enronesque corporate outlaws and drug-addicted right-wing talk-show hosts.

Dave, a very wise man, also writes

As I noted quite awhile back, projection from the right has become such a common phenomenon that it’s now a very useful gauge in guessing where the right is taking us next:

    Indeed, one of the lessons I’ve gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left.

Whether it’s sexual improprieties, slander, treason, or unhinged behavior, it doesn’t matter: if the right is jumping up and down accusing the left of it, you can bet they’re busy engaging in it themselves by an exponential factor of a hundred.

Bigotry is a multi-faceted thing. Growing up in a small, all-white, all-Christian Bible Belt town taught me that. I have no doubt there are folks back home cheering for Israel who would be less, um, enthusiastic if a Hasidic family moved next door. This is not going to happen, since it’s probably an hour’s drive to the nearest synagogue, but I can well imagine the uproar. Bible Belt children are taught to admire Moses, David, Solomon, and Daniel in Sunday School, but in Sunday School literature Moses, David, Solomon, and Daniel aren’t portrayed wearing fedoras and sidelocks. There had been some Jewish residents in my little town early in the 20th century, but by the time I came along their descendants had either moved away or converted. I don’t know details. It’s only been in recent years that a few black families moved in, and I understand they’ve been given a very hard time.

On the other hand, I didn’t grow up hearing expressions of anti-semitism. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that the nearest synagogue was an hour’s drive away. The religious divisions I remember from childhood were not between Christians and Jews, but between “mainline” Protestant Christians and born-again Christians — or, put another way, between the sprinkled and the dunked. The few Catholics in the community learned to keep their heads down and their rosaries hidden. Jews seemed long ago and far away, so anti-semitism was a back-burner bigotry. I guess if you can’t be with the ones you hate, hate the ones you’re with.

Back to Tbogg:

Basically it is impossible in America to criticize Israel, or speak in defense of the Palestinian people, without being called an “anti-semite” which is why I believe that so many blogs on the left have been so quiet about the attack on Lebanon and what is benignly referred to as Israel’s “overreaction”. In fact, I hesitated to even write this post remembering how Juan Cole was smeared and denied an appointment at Yale. It is a very rare occurrence when I hesitate to write what is on my mind; but you know us liberals and how we hate to be called a “bigot” or to be accused of being “intolerant” by people who are bigots and are intolerant. Well, as my grandmother used to say: “fuck that noise”. Also, I’m not staying up late waiting for a call from Yale.

I know that many on the right (and this would include those on the right who have kind of forgiven the jews, if only for the moment, for killing their savior) are cheering on Israel as our proxy in the fight against Islamowhateverism, because the right loonisphere constantly demands that someone must fluff their hate hard-on, particularly at a time when the commies, homos, negroes, and Mexicans (temporarily at least) lie dormant.

Many righties dismiss criticism of Israeli actions and policies as anti-semitism. But the opposite of bigotry is not an equal and opposing bigotry. It’s objectivity. Bigots don’t comprehend objectivity. They assume that if you don’t share their prejudices you must have equal and opposing prejudices. Thus, if someone criticizes Israel for its indiscriminate punishment of the Lebanese, that person (a bigot assumes) must hate Israel. They can’t wrap their heads around the fact that non-bigoted people who criticize Israeli government policies can sincerely support Israel’s right to exist and want Israelis to live in safety and peace.

Last week the Vatican issued a statement condemning Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. The righties were appalled. And the only possible reason the Vatican does not solidly support Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, this rightie says, is that Israelis are Jews. But there is a substantial number of Lebanese Catholics, and their lives are endangered by the Israeli assault. Is the Vatican supposed to ignore that?

In the real world, my dears, people can’t always be sorted neatly into two opposing camps — good/bad, right/wrong, us/them — and if you do sort people that way you may have to do a lot of re-sorting. Last year the Lebanese were good because they rallied for democracy; now they’re bad because they couldn’t evict Hezbollah and Israel has to bomb them. Last year the Catholic Church was good because it is “pro-life”; now it is bad because it doesn’t want Lebanese Catholics to be killed by Israeli bombs. (See also James Wolcott.)

And the righties swing from jeering at New York City one day to praising it the next. Yet it’s the same place this week that it was last week. And the opposite of dispassion is zealotry.

Update: Glenn Greenwald notes:

During the protests several months ago against proposed anti-immigration legislation, there were all sorts of angry denunciations over the protestors’ waving of Mexican flags. As I noted at the time, there are numerous self-identified ethnic or nationalistic groups within the U.S. who routinely wave the flags of other countries at events, parades and protests — including Israel, Ireland, Italy — and yet that does not invoke the same objections. To the contrary, many of the same individuals who condemn the waving of Mexican flags praise and celebrate the waving of these other flags.

Yesterday, in the middle of New York City, protestors clogged the streets of Manhattan for a large rally called the “Stand with Israel” rally. As the photographs taken by one of the attendees reflect, there seem to have been many Israeli flags but, at least in these photographs, no American flags. Despite that, one of the most vocal commentators who lambasted the waving of Mexican flags on U.S. soil lauded the pro-Israeli protest.

With the immigration protests, some criticized the waving of Mexican flags on strategic grounds — isn’t it dumb of the protestors, they argued, to signal that their allegiance is to Mexico rather than to the U.S. Shouldn’t they therefore be waiving U.S. flags? As Mickey Kaus put it (emphasis in original): “flaunting allegiance to a neighboring country was not a good way to make most Americans want to let in more people who share your attachment!”

Shouldn’t the same thing be said about the pro-Israeli protestors yesterday? If Americans are going to be persuaded to join this war, it ought to be because doing so is in the interests of the United States, not of Israel. Wouldn’t it make more sense, then, to wave American flags in order to illustrate the point that intervention is in America’s interests, rather than waving the flag of another country in order to persuade Americans to enter a war on its behalf? And what, exactly, is the difference — moral or etiquette-based or otherwise — between the heinous act of waving Mexican flags and the inspiring act of waving Israelis flags, both on U.S. soil?

I agree with what Glenn says in the same post about Juan Cole, too. Righties think balance is a form of moral depravity, and righties hate him not because he’s too biased, but because he isn’t biased enough.

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