Friday, November 16, 2012

Rallying around Israel

I really don't get the intensity with which politicians in both Canada and the US rally around Israel.  The rhetoric during the US election surrounding this issue was nutty with each candidate trying to outdo the other in making promises to do anything to crush the enemies of Israel.  Of course the Canadian Prime Minister just decided to condemn 'terrorist attacks' on Israel and express support for them defending themselves.  His formula appears to be entirely based on 'Jews good, Muslims bad' with nothing else involved.

It drives me batty.  Is it terrible that Palestinians fire rockets into Israel?  Yes.  What I can't figure out is how people manage to get away with so ardently defending Israel when it fires its own rockets into Palestinian territory and kill people.  There is no point whatsoever in trying to establish who hit who first as we would have to go back thousands of years.  The only thing that matters is that everybody needs to stop murdering everybody else.  Characterizing one side as the terrorists and the other side as the valiant defenders of freedom as both sides random blast each other's civilians is disingenuous at best, downright evil at worst.

So what causes politicians over here to be so incredibly focused around Israel's fate?  There are plenty of other nations suffering internal strife and the one sided sabre rattling we see around Israel simply doesn't appear elsewhere.  Is the Jewish vote so easily manipulated and so critical?  I ask that question because I don't really know... it seems likely that politicians figure they could lose the entire Jewish vote if they don't express total solidarity with Israel but aren't they likely to lose a ton of Muslim votes at the same time?

My most important criteria for voting is 'who will incinerate less human beings'.  Politicians could really sell me on voting for them if they would stop supporting military action by powerful nations against weak nations on what seems like an entirely religious or racial basis.


  1. It probably has a lot to do with the status quo. Everyone over here sides with Israel so taking a different stance makes you stand out and could well cost you a lot of votes. "Everyone" is against Palestine so you're not hurting yourself politically by being against them.

    It's a lot like how we still have catholic school boards. Why? Because they've always been here.

    Or why pot is illegal but alcohol and tobacco are just fine. There's no logically consistent stance that makes sense of it, but that's how it was so that's how it is.

    Eventually there will be a big shift that knocks out the old way in each of these cases, but inertia is hard to overcome.

  2. Off the top of my head reasons to support Israel:
    1) They are a democracy
    2) They target military targets and accidentally hit civilians (instead of the other way around)
    3) Israel (even under their current leadership) rhetorically supports a 2 state solution, Hamas rhetorically supports the destruction of Israel.

    Off the top of my head reasons to support Hamas:
    1) Israel has killed more people and more civilians in this and recent conflicts.
    2) The residents of the Gaza strip are suffering fairly severely as a result of sanctions and other actions from Israel (more so than the Israelis are from the actions of Hamas).

    While you or I may disagree, one non-cynical reason that politicians support Israel is they find the first list more convincing.

    Why we care more about say the conflict in Israel than say the Congo? One reason is the worst case set of escalations result in a regional war with impacts on global oil supplies and possible use of nuclear weapons.

  3. @Anonymous

    I agree with you mostly but there are some things that should be noted: Hamas targets randomly in part because they don't have the military might to strike at Israel's military directly. The only thing they *can* accomplish is random rocket attacks and indiscriminate bombings and such. The other big point is that when you have a state that isn't a state and is ruled by another country it is going to be hard to have a functioning democracy. If Israel just threw up their hands and walked out of Gaza and the West Bank etc. a respectable democracy might develop... or it might not. Until that is tried I find it hard to criticize the Palestinians for not having a stable democractic state since they don't even really have a country.

  4. What you're asking for ("until that is tried...") occurred already. Israel did walk out of much of Gaza and the West Bank... and there were elections (horribly corrupt ones, but that's beside the point). After a couple of Fatah dominated ones eventually Hamas won Gaza while the Fatah kept the West Bank and there was severe fighting between the two groups that ended with Hamas mostly victorious (

    Some shellings/responses, kidnappings/responses, etc. later and things have escalated. Then you have another rocket attack, and as per Israeli policy, they responded with a targeted assassination of the person responsible (Ahmed Jabari -

    "The stated aims of the operation [...] are to halt the rocket attacks originating from the Gaza Strip".

    I don't support everything Israel does, but in this case I'm a huge fan of targeted killing and assassination. What do you suggest for the response when a foreign entity rains rockets and shells down on your civilian population?

    I support education, and intermingling through things that I have volunteered extensively with like Givat Haviva ( which basically believes that if you become friends with each other in very small groups it becomes harder to think of the other side as a faceless enemy. And that can go a long way to cause real change; but in the short and immediate term you can't just ignore those whose stated founding goal is to destroy Israel. Sometimes the only way to stop violence is with more effective violence.

    It comes down to this for me: One side has stated, and backed up with actions, that if left alone they will leave the other side alone; The other side has stated, and backed up with actions, that if left alone they will still attack the other side.

    Of course, none of that really addresses your original question, which is about why it's so important politically here and in the US, but that is a much simpler question. Israel's lobby groups are more effective than the Muslim equivalents ( "The Washington Post summarized the Center for Responsive Politics' 1990–2006 data and concluded that "Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990." In contrast, Arab-Americans and Muslim PACs contributed slightly less than $800,000 during the same (1990–2006) period"


  5. So here is the thing: Palestinians use rockets against Israel. This is deplorable. Let us think though, on what the best possible response is. Are targetted attacks that kill high ranking Palestinian military leaders and also kill off random civilians nearby really fixing the problem? It gets retribution, but is also forments even more hatred on the other side. Killing off a couple of leaders does nothing in the long term as long as there are recruits to promote through the ranks.

    The only way to stop attacks against Israel long term (barring surrender or total annihilation of the other side) is to stop people from wanting to attack Israel. That is the ONLY thing that can end this. Refusing to strike back might feel bad but it stops escalating the cycle of violence and convinces the world that they are the ones that should be supported without hesitation. Attacking back (particularly when random civilians get in the way of targetted strikes) ensures that the conflict will continue to brew for the foreseeable future.

    Note that I am not defending the actions of Palestinians who commit atrocities *at all*. I think it is abundantly clear they need to stop what they are doing and that their negotiating position improves immeasurably when they do. However, I don't think that retribution from either side is useful, justified, or defensible.