Roger Cohen thinks Europe is being too hard on Israel and the U.S. too forgiving, and wishes for a happy medium. I don’t have a feel for what’s going on in Europe now regarding violence in Gaza, but here’s the part I find interesting.
Views of the war in the United States can feel similarly skewed, resistant to the whole picture, slanted through cultural inclination and political diktat. It is still hard to say that the killing of hundreds of Palestinian children represents a Jewish failure, whatever else it may be. It is not easy to convey the point that the open-air prison of Gaza in which Hamas has thrived exists in part because Israel has shown a strong preference for the status quo, failing to reach out to Palestinian moderates and extending settlements in the West Bank, fatally tempted by the idea of keeping all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
Oppressed people will respond. Millions of Palestinians are oppressed. They are routinely humiliated and live under Israeli dominion. When Jon Stewart is lionized (and slammed in some circles) for â€œrevealingâ€ Palestinian suffering to Americans, it suggests how hidden that suffering is. The way members of Congress have been falling over one another to demonstrate more vociferous support for Israel is a measure of a political climate not conducive to nuance. This hardly serves Americaâ€™s interests, which lie in a now infinitely distant peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and will require balanced American mediation.
Something may be shifting. Powerful images of Palestinian suffering on Facebook and Twitter have hit younger Americans. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that among Americans age 65 or older, 53 percent blame Hamas for the violence and 15 percent Israel. For those ages 18 to 29, Israel is blamed by 29 percent of those questioned, Hamas by just 21 percent. My son-in-law, a doctor in Atlanta, said that for his social group, mainly professionals in their 30s with young children, it was â€œimpossible to see infants being killed by what sometimes seems like an extension of the U.S. Army without being affected.â€
For a host of complex reasons, for many years the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been presented to Americans as a kind of morality play of good guys versus bad guys, and Israel’s many controversial actions and policies have been airbrushed out of public view. In conservative circles especially unwavering support for Israel has become part and parcel of what it means to be American, but I have to say a lot of Democrats aren’t much better.
I’ve thought for a long time that the U.S. – Israeli co-dependency has benefited Israel a lot more than it has benefited the U.S., but I’m thinking now maybe in the long run it has hurt Israel also. If Israel didn’t have the U.S. to lean on the status quo probably would have become untenable a long time ago, and Israel may have been forced into more moderate and conciliatory policies. And maybe Hamas would be just some fringe group of malcontents, and there’d be no bloodbath in Gaza now.