Editor’s Pick
JUNE 7, 2010 8:02AM

Natural Sympathies

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I suppose a lot of midnight oil is being burned, in various European and American newspaper editorial offices, at the UN and other various transnational entities, the various offices of CAIR, and departments of Middle East Studies at universities everywhere, as the denizens thereof are trying to figure out and explain just why the general run of Americans— despite every inducement; intellectual, political and economic— continue in their stubborn, sentimental and persistent attachment to the State of Israel, and ensuring it’s continuing, if perilous existence. (Hey, wow! Totally complicated sentence— do I get any prize for this from the 19th Century literary appreciation wonks? No? OK, then, on with the explanation.).

I think there are a great many reasons for this; chief among them being that Jews have been part of the American scene, and more or less integrated into the great nation-building adventure since Colonial times. There has always been— depending on the time, place and social caste— a certain degree of social anti-Semitism, but generally achieving nothing like the degree of virulence it takes to achieve a pogrom, a Dreyfus Affair or a Holocaust. Congress making no law respecting a particular religion left us in the habit of seeing ones’ particular religious beliefs as a personal one, however outre they might be. Frankly, more political outrage and general suspicion was expended on Catholics— Popery! The Bishop of Rome! The Whore of Babylon! — at the time of the great Irish migrations in the mid-19th century. It was pretty difficult to work up much alarm about off-standard religious beliefs when Jews were compared against groups like the Shakers (no sex, communal living, workshops and free enterprise!) and the Mormons (plural marriages, communal living, free enterprise and separation!) and a whole other range of non-standard and extremely creative social and religious communes.

All our base impulses leading towards rioting, lynching and intermittent attempts at genocide were pretty much focused during the 19th century on parties other than those of the Jewish persuasion; towards blacks, Hispanics, Mormons, and Native Americans, mostly. From reading various 19th century American writers, one gets the general impression that they knew of anti-Semitism, but didn’t quite grasp what all the fuss was about and relegated it to the intellectual back burner. Some time ago I had read of a famous American literary personality — I believe it was General Lew Wallace (the author of Ben Hur) who was asked what he felt about Jews, and he replied in all seriousness (IIRC) that Jesus had been born a Jew, and for him that pretty much settled the matter.

As nearly as I can remember, the Holocaust made any overt display of anti-Semitism in post WWII America just not the done and socially approved of thing. I remember being deeply puzzled, at the age of 12, when a boy in Mr. Terrenova’s 6th grade class at Sunland Elementary School called my good friend Robin a ‘dirty Jew’; first, by the very fact that it should be any sort of insult at all— why not a dirty Presbyterian, or a dirty Lutheran?— and by the fact that Mr. Terrenova sent him to the principal’s office so fast that the unfortunate lad probably sustained whiplash injuries. I went to catechism class one afternoon a week after school, Robin went to Hebrew school. We often spent Friday or Saturday night sleepovers at each others houses, and at her house, her mother often fixed bacon for us the next morning. They were, like my parents’good friend, Unca Ralphie and his Auntie Vera from Moscow, not observant Jews. My parents were godparents to Unca Ralphie’s twin daughters when they were baptized as Lutherans, that’s how non-observant Unca Ralphie was. Robin attempted to teach me the Hebrew alphabet, and I reciprocated by enlightening her regarding the theological intricacies of Luther’s Small Catechism. She was a third generation descendent of Russian Jews, as I was the third generation of English Protestants. Russia and England were alike the “old country’ from whence our grandparents had departed with some degree of alacrity, only Robin had the new ‘old country’ of Israel as additional fall-back. It was another place to feel a connection towards, and take an interest in, the way my other friends, who were descendents of immigrants, took a kindly and proprietary interest in, say, Sweden, or Ireland, or Germany.

Another reason for American’s natural sympathy with Israel is that pioneer thing— building a whole new place from scratch, out of desert and waste. Sorry, we love all that. Especially if it is being done by people like us and to quote Bill Murray in Stripes, who have been thrown out of every other decent country imaginable. That just resonates with us. We also look at what a place like what South Korea has made of what history dealt them, over the same time-span as the Palestinians: third-world poor, war-ravaged, exiled from half of their places of birth, in the gentle care of the UN.

Seoul. Gaza. Deal.

That Jacksonian respect, towards truth, honor, and integrity? A man’s word being his bond? Sorry, we’re rather freakingly medieval about that, in our blunt and honest peasant fashion. Our initial assumption is that is someone is telling the truth, when he pledges his word and if he is later proven to have spoken falsely? We do not take well at being lied to. Upon once being lied to by a source, we will assume that source is speaking to us with an increasingly longer nose ever after. There are reasons (Jenin, Mohammed Dura, the Karin A affair, etc.) that I personally think of the Palestinian representative in front of the TV cameras as a “spokes-liar” and assume that every word out of their lips is a lie, including “and” and “the”. Imagine Sab Erekat trying to sell you a used car– when you have finished twitching, vomiting and having spasms all over the floor, I will move on.

I would like to note that the blog-reported speculation that the reason our former president suddenly soured on the late and indifferently shaved President Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and proprietor of the least convincing beard in recent history, was the fact that President A lied to President B as regards the Karin A, the ship full of arms for the poor, poor Palestinians. We are incessantly being lectured as well, on the fact that we should feel instant and abundant sympathy for the Palestinians. Really, NPR is non-stop hectoring us about that, along the lines of They have been historically wronged! Wronged, I tell you! They have been unsupportively and uniquely wronged, and we demand that attention be paid! Over, and over again! Umm. Yeah. Right. Uniquely and historically wronged. Like the Armenians. And the Tibetans. And the Ukrainians. And the Kurds - the list goes on and on. But it’s the Palestinians who field suicide bombers, who reward, honor and glorify them, dress up small children in bomb belts… and then get pissy because they are stereotyped as terrorists. Well, the Chechens and the Uighers have that same problem, but NPR doesn’t seem to give a damn.

Hey, life is rife with these little unfairnesses and inconsistencies.

Here’s another Jacksonian response; we favor competency in our soldiering, and despise braggarts, show-offs and incompetents. Every couple of decades since 1948, it seems like the militaries of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, etc. are swept by delusions of adequacy and have a go at demolishing their Public Enemy #1. And every time they get their asses handed back to them on a silver platter. Jacksonians are amused by this and also kind of like seeing the outnumbered little guys clean the floor with them. Over and over.

Then there are those Hamas and Hisbollah showboats who strut around before the admiring throng, waving their weapons in a gloriously martial fashion, boasting of how they will drive the Jews into the sea, et cetera, et cetera. Funny thing, they haven’t managed it yet; I guess because they keep running into real soldiers, which is why they have to hide behind their own women and children, behind the cover of an assortment of well-meaning tools, and in the Church of the Nativity. There’s a certain sort of passive-aggression about that; it’s the tactic of the sneaky, evil-minded little kid who picks and provokes and snipes, and when someone snaps and thumps him one, goes wailing to the authority figure, sniveling that someone is hitting him. And then, of course, the little git smiles maliciously, as his target is punished by the authority figure. Jacksonians hated that sort of thing when we were kids, and don’t much like it any better when practiced by adults.

Finally, there’s 9-11. Hard to feel completely neutral about suicide bombers on public transport, after that. So for those reasons, and any others that commenters may articulate, our sympathies tend towards Israel, as much as the rest of the world seems to wish it otherwise. And keep in mind, there a lot of American mothers, who when their children pleaded with them by saying “But everyone else is doing it!” cautioned us against going along with the crowd by saying,“Well, would you jump off a cliff, if everyone else is doing it?"

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"do I get any prize for this"

No, you get the booby prize for not knowing the difference between "it's" and "its."
This is, I think, good insight into a large piece of the American Psyche.

As one who for the most part disagrees with both the Far Left and Right I have had, shall we say, heated, discussions with both on the ongoing progress of the homecoming.

The Left loves a cause, the Right loves, er, loves to hate, an enemy.

Personally and subjectively, as usual, there is a lot of blame on both sides, primarily with leadership. The Israeli Right plain and simple isn't going to stop with the settlements, no matter what, and this panders to the NPR crowd's sense of injustice ... as if the displaced Arab former West Bank residents will ever be allowed pre-48, much less pre-67, return, that is not going to happen, so, it is the proverbial head banging against the wall waiting for change. It won't happen.

It may sound like a wild analogy, but there is no such effort to return the European properties to their former Jewish owners.

My heart goes out to the Palestinian people, whose leaders, as you say, are at best cartoonish. It is like watching Yosemite Sam hold a press conference, pistols in hand. This "leadership" isn't capable of settling anything with anybody, even between Gaza and the West Bank. Ironically, the population's suffering the same type of treatment pre-Israel Jews did, and, as they have not anything near the same education or experience, they are entirely ill-equipped to move forward ... their Saturday morning kids TV shows pretty much say it all. I root for them though, and I also hope one day they can surf the beaches of Gaza as the former residents did, albeit in apartheid, instead of being told Allah does not approve of swimsuits and fun.

President Jackson's hoi polloi, Native American genocide aside, gave the US the differentiator that allowed the country to change the world, but the Jewish experience gave us Spinoza, the source of what became the Enlightment; the source of what the founding fathers used to create this great experiment. Sadly, Philosophy and its history are considered the realm of egg-heads, like, well, the elites that founded the United States building on his ideas ... this country, good and bad, owes its genesis to a Jew- that fact is plain and simple though sadly little known, though frankly few modern Jacksonians know Jackson well either ...

And the world turns ...

Israel has always received the most US foreign aid of any country and then they buy our weapons - you gotta love that right?
Hey Gordo - always appreciate the appearance of a grammarian.
Well, Noah - at least they're buying from us and not China.
i'm sorry helen thomas was the brunt of this, because she has a reputation for blunt talk, & she's a good reporter. but the heebs will suppose more of the same------you just don't criticise israel.

actually they are doing what they have always done poke a stick in yr eye , & raise all kinds of indignation when you say, 'ouch'.

we deserve more balanced MMM coverage but only overseas can you get it. US jews have too much clout!!!! we don't get balance, or israel's withdrawal from Gaza would be also played up. i try to understand all this---i really do, until i'm reminded they all have identical DNA.

So here's a question: Are or should we be overly surprised at the more hardline stance Israel is now taking? What did Benjamin Netanyahu (I think I spelled that right) do the first time he was Prime Minister? I think about the same thing.
Thought provoking post SgtMom
hey, noah. who do you suppose owns the defense industry???
sgt xx. retired military. lives in TX. what a surprise!!!!
oh, & the stories to come outa the 'Holocaust'. many of them make good stories, just not under oath. (Actually, I greatly enjoy Isaac Bashevs Singer---his writing)

I've served on juries---as many of us have. evrybody's under oath but somebody's lying.
Ummm, 'kay, I don't believe in deleting comments, but the first comment from Ben Dunham is skating very close to the line. Anyone who goes any farther than he has, runs a serious risk. Word to the wise, and all that.

Why, yes, Ben - I am am a retired USAF NCO, and I do currently live in Texas. Weather is hot, but the people are nice ... does that present some kind of problem for you?

Carry on.
Mrs. Sgt.
I really like your approach to….
A breath of fresh air on this FORUM….


If we follow your way of pointing out the root cause of societal evolution in America with things like the Jewish experience giving us Spinoza, don’t we have to go even further back to Al Horezmi, the developer of the algebraic equation? And a bunch of others…

Check your facts better. Speaking of Israelis buying from us the weaponry, how much new and more advanced technologies are they giving back to the US? Please, do some research. You’ll be surprised!!!
"Well, Noah - at least they're buying from us and not China."
Exactly- they are our ally. (until they aren't, which isn't going to be any time in this century or probably the next)
I still don't think them taking over Palestinian land is right, I see it as an invasion of previously occupied land and a killing off of the native people, but I don't think lots of things the US does to win wars is good and right either. I have that luxury, sitting in the middle of a country who doesn't get attacked on it's own shores except occasionally. I think my stance on that is probably one of the few places my dad's politics and mine intersect :)
Numb- absolutely, then take it back to the Egyptians who began the Math- and, on close inspection- You see the God(s) of Jews, Christians and Muslims are nothing but Math- transit calculations, nothing more ... and then you see why the circular arguments of the 3- Helen Thomas reminding us the Maronites are still nearby-
The thing is, Israel is a democracy - an imperfect one, but it is heads and shoulders above its neighbors. It allows its religious minorities to practice their religion, something most of its neighbors won't do. Its punitive policies regarding terrorist threats go beyond what I think is wise (does it really help the Israeli cause to bulldoze the home of a terrorist, or does that create more terrorists?), but such judgments are easy to make from my comfortable chair on the other side of the globe.

Given a choice between the imperfect representative government of Israel and the intolerance and despotism of most of its neighbors, who do you expect Americans to support? Of course, if Israel ceased to exist, those despots would lose their scapegoat, and quite possibly their own lives.
Spectacular post, Sgt. Mom. So glad the Editor put it on the cover. I was writing and thinking a lot about this today and you said it so brilliantly that I'll probably scrap mine.
Thanks, Sgt, for posting this.

As Ben made clear above, we heebs must be working at counter purposes to Real Americans, right? Maybe our political actions should be restricted, or our control of the media and world finance ended? Sound familiar? Ask Mel Gibson. According to him, Jews have started every war in the past 2,000 years.

As for not criticizing Israel's policies, Ben, I'm not alone in calling them out on a regular basis. There's even a lobby for that: J Street.

The ugly 62 year-old war between the Arabs and the Jews shows no sign of abating. Then, there are the Persians.
if you want to catch up on the current dialogue I suggest you read THE FAILURE OF THE AMERICAN JEWISH ESTABLISHMENT by Abraham Foxman in a recent editiion of THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. I think it would fascinate you to learn more about what is going on and make you a more informed part of the conversation.
In other words your support for Israel is a tribal gut-reaction kind of thing, and not based on the facts of any given situation.

Well, I would argue that you are ignoring your mother's advice and marching towards the cliff along with your herd. Or more precisely, you are encouraging Israel as they race for the cliff.
european jews shot their way into palestine, and began the process long before hitler came to power.

some of the palestinians continue to resist, since the alternative the israels offer is serfdom in enclaves like the formal walled ghettos of pre-war europe. hamas is their vehicle. others have given in, fatah will settle for whatever they can get. since they won't fight any longer, netanyahu will give them nothing.

if you can bring to mind the 'settling' of the west, you may remember the endless list of broken treaties americans created in dealing with their beaten enemies. 'respect for one's word' would get a sour laugh on any reservation in america. this may figure in the determination of hamas to deal with israel with gun in hand.
What is unique about this situation ? Underdogs without the military muscle for regular warfare of necessity are reduced to hit and run raids. If they lose, they are terrorists, if they win they are instantly transformed into Patriotic heroes.
Isn't this the story of the War of Independance here ?
"I still don't think them taking over Palestinian land is right, I see it as an invasion of previously occupied land and a killing off of the native people"

The problem here is that Israel was formed on land that belonged to the British empire. Israel didn't force anyone out, the British left.
And ... actually, the Zionist settlers who began coming in the late 1800s, bought tracts of land, fair and square, under the authority of the Ottoman Empire, and after the defeat of the Turks in WWI, under the auspices of the British Mandate. All law-abiding and legal - not much a parallel to our very own dear Wild West, I am thinking.

Extended answers to y'all coming later. Been busy at my real job, writing the next best-selling (hah!) historical novel, all this afternoon.
Interesting set of responses, to an essay I originally wrote a couple of years ago, and only reposted as it seemed relevant to the current situation vis a vis Israel. Thank y'all for your time and mostly considered and erudite responses.
"Imagine Sab Erekat trying to sell you a used car– when you have finished twitching, vomiting and having spasms all over the floor, I will move on."

Youv'e obviously not heard of the biggest fraudster in all of recorded and unrecorded history, Maddof. Not forgetting the other Jews on Wall Street. The Lehman's etc etc. Swindlers that didn't spare anyone. Would you buy a car from them?

And how convenient! 70 billions gone and no one knows where!

Check with the Central Bank of the Zionist enterprise. More weapons I guess to kill stone throwing kids.
Have heard of him, dear Salamander ... so is he latest incarnation of the eternal Bad Jew Swindler in the current version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
Do be careful about this sort of anti-Semitic smear, Salamander. You are treading very close to my line.
So, was what you said about Saeb Erakat, an anti-Palestinian smear? In fact that should read anti-semitic. Because the Arabs, Palestinians are semitic people. You must know that if you are a history buff. In fact it is the Western/European Jews who by their own admission are of Caucasian ethnicity; not remotely semitic.

I didn't call anyone a dirty Jew, but I am not sure how many expletives you would have used had any of these mega swindlers/fraudsters been Muslims.

BTW any idea where the 70 billion has disappeared?
You keep warning people, correctly, that their comments sound anti-semitic. But they don't sound any worse than your own, quoted below.

"There are reasons (Jenin, Mohammed Dura, the Karin A affair, etc.) that I personally think of the Palestinian representative in front of the TV cameras as a “spokes-liar” and assume that every word out of their lips is a lie, including “and” and “the”. Imagine Sab Erekat trying to sell you a used car– when you have finished twitching, vomiting and having spasms all over the floor, I will move on."

It sounds like your sympathies are still with Israel, as you say, because of your contempt for Palestinians.
And it is contempt for Palestinians so richly earned ...'member, I am a history buff? And have paid attention to the ME over the last thirty years or so. My own emotions toward them are more a sort of pity and exasperation, because of what they had possession of, at the loosing end of a war in 1948 and what they were given, courtesy of the UN, and the skills from their own Diaspora. They could have built something like Singapore with beachfront aspects, been a tourism, commercial-gardening and business destination for Israel and the Mideast (kind of like a miniature Abu Dhabi) - and instead of working with that, it seems to have become easier to be the favored woobie and tool of the various Arab and Muslim autocracies, to be taken out and shaken about whenever someone wanted to distract from their own considerably self-inflicted woes. There were so many returning Palestinians who were keen to do just that, after the peace accords in the 1970s, people returning from Canada, the US and Australia - I remember hearing and reading interviews with them, 20 years ago - and they were all pretty much crushed because of Arafat and his corrupt gang.

Also - the shooting of missiles into Israeli towns, and homicide-bombers with explosive vests, blowing up buses, pizza parlors and seaside attractions ... that's kind of off-putting, sympathy-wise.
"And it is contempt for Palestinians so richly earned"

Anyone who hates any group of people wholesale can find reasons why they can be said to have "earned" it. Rationalized racism is still racism. Indeed, I've never encountered a racism that didn't find a way of rationalizing itself, and pointing to a particular version of history is the most common racist justification at all. Nothing special here I'm afraid. Garden variety American racism toward the last "acceptable" object of such an attitude.
I can't remember if this is my first visit to your b log, but it will certainly be my last. I don't need the toxicity.
So tell me what fault was it of the Palestinians that all of Europe was collectively consigning them to the gas chambers? Why weren't they given a part of Germany or Poland?
I think we support Israel because America has a lot more Jews than Palestinians. Many of the Jews' ancestors emigrated from places with fatal anti-semitism. Further, many Jews support Israel with vehemence, money, and political action.

Because too many Jews have families who suffered from pogroms, Nazis, etc. I was in Prague last weekend. 90% of the Jews who lived in the Czech Republic before WW2 were killed by the Nazis. Somewhere around 90,000. Who wants that kind of a homeland?

By contrast, in Israel, there is a Jewish look. An American Jew whose ancestors lived in Central Europe for centuries can feel like like they belong in Israel, which they certainly won't do touring the empty synagogues and remains of once-thriving ghettos nor the death camps of the countries their ancestors emigrated from.
I am far too tired to wrap my mind around Israel at this late moment. But I will say one thing that has not been discussed. Most american Jews do not ever visit Israel--80% or so. Those that do often feel 'different.'

I would guess that is because in terms of sentiment or states of mind and being, Israeli Jews and American Jews are actually worlds apart. Israelis are extremely varied but in the most general terms, and speaking mainly about secular Israelis: They are friendly, warm, nosy, hyper, manic, connected to a land, connected to each other, hang in groups, less lonliness , less psychological, more harsh, more outspoken et al: Quite different from American Jews, in many ways.

In the large cities in USA where many Jews live: NYC, LA, Miami, to name only 3 , American Jews are more polite, more diplomatic, more distancing from others (applies to all Americans in large cities) and meet primarily through Synagogues or Jewish chavara--reconstructionist Jews for example, centered in Philidelphia, or Tikkun leftist Jews in Berkeley: All are entirely different from Israeli sabras.

This means 1) that many USA Jews know very little about Israel, 2) That Israel is a source of bonding (growing less true with the young) but not known as a real dynamic, crazy, heartening, disheartening exciting, difficult and most of all: as an imaginative space, with tribal tensions we do not have here in USA.

Israeli Jews think of American Jews as: spoiled, wealthy, weak, money hungry, alienated from life, tepid etc.

This is a very generalized statement but it is important. Because both Israelis and USA Jews live with HUGE myths about the other, and some from USA do and many do not find in Israel itself any comfort or sense of home.

I've met many many Jewish Americans who cannot stand the Israeli 'chutzpah'; their directness, the ease with anger and the ease with getting over anger. We in USA are far more inhibited due in part to post Holocaust fears when the Jews were far from certain they would get into Universities and most were certain that we'd face anti-semitisim, which as you said in your post, in fact we Jewish Americans did and do not.

The word I was looking for was "sensibility"--so there are intra-jewish tensions that are not about left or right, rarely discussed yet a source of the so-called political ties and tensions. Israeli loudness vs. American 'tepidness' are real ways the two from such different cultures confuse each other. To love Israel requires a certain need for openness, directness, bravado, a huge need for ease of connectedness.

Not everyone's cuppa tea. This is a huge topic that I am not doing justice but what your post brought forth in me. Rarely discussed. Hugely important but why? will have to wait till I get some sleep.
This post is quite risible on so many grounds, I don't even know where to begin. I could even start by shrugging off the idea of 'natural sympathies' between nations; it was Lord Palmerston, Britain's great 19th century statesman, who put it bluntly, that Britain had no permanent allies - only permanent interests. (And Anglo-American relations saw a complete reversal of previous antipathies last century.) We can even see it in America's relative indifference to Israel in the early years after its independence. Finally, there's the simple fact that the American establishment are at best biased--and in lock-step, to boot, something I still find remarkable--at worst apologists for Israel's actions. So it is that in other countries you can have a serious debate on the merits, the history and the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations; in the United States, Congress laughably votes 100% in favour of its policies--and literally, almost every single man and woman in Congress scrambles pathetically to vote in favour of Israeli policy whenever the chance arises. It obviously has nothing to do with enormous lobbying pressure, or even geopolitical influence in the region. O' course not; it's American reasoning at its best!

Permit me while I scoff.

I would quibble with a few things you've argued here. I'd start by contesting the notion that the State of Irael suffers from a 'perilous existence.' I don't see how that can be so--and indeed, it is, I think, one of the defining differences in opinion between many European and American commentators on the Palestinian Question. I think most people outside the US take it as given that Israel will continue to exist unproblematically, thanks in large part to America's bloated annual aid and its guarantee for Israeli security. In Britain, for example, I think most people just don't think the very state is at danger of destruction because of the ongoing turmoil in the occupied territories. I think this also, generally, defines attitudes to terrorism in general. Few in Europe seriously believe their state is on the precipice of complete destruction as a result of terrorist attacks; in America, we're way more paranoid about that.

And of course, coupled with Israel's gigantic military advantage vis-à-vis its neighbours, let alone the TERRITORIES IT OCCUPIES, so bold an assertion proves more facile than Americans seem to accept.

I further quibble with that queasy romantic take on America's love of 'frontier' countries, on many grounds. I'm sorry, but Palestine has always been inhabited--from before the Jews 'arrived', until after the destruction of the kingdom(s) of the Jews, to the extension of the caliphate(s), to the European mandates. The Jews in 1948 did not create something ex nihilo--there was a whole society, mostly Arab, but also Jewish, Christian and others, that continued to be present. Saying otherwise is a patent falsehood, and it buys into Israel's self-deceptive myths; much, indeed, as the US buys into its own myths about its exceptionalism and--yes--its pioneering spirit. (Only, of course, Americans weren't pioneering in the wild entirely; there were Native Americans everywhere, and Spaniards--later Mexicans--to the South and the West; all forgotten...) And South Korea is a silly example. There was no wholesale re-engineering of South Korea's demographics after the Korean War. If anything, Korea simply undertook the same policies adopted by Germany and Japan after the Second World War: that is, a managed (read: state-directed) economic growth policy to reconstruct its destroyed, and in the event backward economy, and it worked wonders. South Korea, further, wasn't occupied, like Palestine; South Korea was under American military protection, much like Japan and Germany. Protection does not equal occupation, and that makes all the difference. It's also an affront to make any direct comparisons between South Korea and Gaza, for what should be obvious reasons. (Oh, but of course it's not obvious; NPR is just being silly, as are continued reports of food and supplies shortages in Gaza...)

What's even more galling, however, is that you concentrate your energies on putting us on a pedestal--because we Americans just absolutely love the truth, and can't stand to be lied to--whilst wantonly ignoring our, well, ignorance of the truth. In America, you only get half the truth--Israel's half--about what has transpired, and what continues to transpire. So Yasser Arafat wasn't a shining beacon of democracy and political legitimacy in the Middle East. But it is not as though the UN, European states, pretty much every NGO worth its name, and countless independent enquiries--even within Israel itself, mind--haven't consistently pointed out the many, MANY egregious harms done by the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people.

And what makes it all so unique, indeed, is the fact that this is a problem of our--the West's--creation. You can bang on and on about the Armenians, the Tibetans, et al, but the simple fact of the matter is that those are peoples who were--and to some degree, are--oppressed by folks outside of our direct control. But what of Palestine, carved as it was out of a large series of protectorates under British control? What of Palestine, whose creation is owed to UN sponsorhip of Zionist claims to a separate homeland? What of Palestine, where the US transfers billions of dollars to fund one of the best-equipped militaries on Earth, and which enjoys singular transfers of technology and weaponry to fight terrorists fighting with the most arcane weapons? What of Palestine, where Israel has flouted more Security Council resolutions--the self-same Security Council that guaranteed Israeli independence--than should be deemed acceptable? What about the Palestine that has been illegally occupied, partially ethnically cleansed (let's not mince our words), and which continues to be colonised in an era when we're told colonisation is no longer acceptable?

The truth of the matter, Sgt. Mom, is that yours are tendentious arguments that appeal to only the worst in the American psyche--its pompous self-regard, its back-patting congratulations over its supposed even-handedness, its love of 'winners'--whilst studiously (no, stupidly) ignoring not just historical verities, but present-day suffering. So it doesn't matter to you that Gaza is slowly being strangled, if not entirely starved (in the words of Israeli officials). That this goes against the spirit AND letter of international law, international humanitarian law, and the laws of war doesn't bother you one iota.

You think that's splendid because you're a gee-whiz, we-know-what's-best American. I call it a callous indifference both to truth and suffering.

-- An American Without Natural Sympathies
"tribal" - argh!!!!!!!!!!!! We all (should) know that the muslims who flew into the towers do not represent all muslims, yet we are subject to utter aholes who associate ME with Madoff and a host of other scumbags who happen to be Jewish. Wherever those millions are, I don't have any of them. I've never been to Israel and have no burning desire to go there. Israel often commits heinous acts - but remember, Bush and Cheney did to, in our name, even though most of us disagreed with them. Those that did agree did so out of fear of another attack.

I just read part of an editorial this morning pointing out that 1500 Jews were killed in Poland AFTER the war - by Poles who didn't want to give up the spoils left behind by Jews who were now returning. In Russia, there were pogroms long before Hitler was even born. Subjugation of the Jews isn't some theory or a new 20th century phenomenon.

What I don't understand is the black/white thinking. I mean, there will always be assholes who call us "heebs" and blame us for everything. (BTW, do all Catholics agree with the Vatican's protection of pedophiles? Do all American Christians think the crusades and Inquisition were a good thing? Why then would all Jews agree "tribally" with everything Israel does? It's a stupid concept.)

Jews lived in Palestine for centuries before the founding of Israel. Israel is a speck in a sea of huge nations, some of whom have pledged and tried to "drive Israel into the sea". When faced with genocide in Europe (they were not "given a place" in Europe; they were born there) and being killed after trying to come "home" after the war, European Jews sought a more ancestral home.

Perhaps there is some other, more nefarious reasoning behind this, but for the Jews coming to Israel after the war, it was about being somewhere safe from annihilation - somewhere that at some point in time was "home" and could be home again.

The UN agreed and passed a resolution making it so; yet the UN didn't put any force behind it, the Arab nations balked, and the Israelis used force to make the resolution a reality.

Agree or disagree with their actions, that's what happened.

At the same time, muslims lived in Palestine for centuries before the founding of Israel. Jews and Muslims in the area had a difficult time getting along long before the establishment of Israel. And subjugation of the Palestinians, which may well be borne of Israelis' fears of annihilation, is horrible nonetheless. Israel responds in an over the top military action with which I cannot agree. This latest is just unconscionable. A few rusty knives and some gas masks still do not justify the Israelis' actions.

Yet it does not occur in a vacuum. We may disagree with the utter destruction of Afghanistan in pursuit of destroying the Taliban, but we know it was undertaken by our government in response to 9/11.

Israel likewise often responds outrageously to verbal threats and suicide bombings, which are real and frightening to them.

And the Palestinians are also being used as pawns by the Arab world to provoke Israel. Arafat enriched himself on aid sent to help the Palestinians. Israel plays into their hands by reacting as they do, wholesale destruction in response to a relative pinprick.

What happened, happened. Israel exists. The Israeli government are not merely saintly protectors of the Jews; in fact a lot of decisions are probably made more about water rights in the area.

By the same token, Palestinians are pawns in a larger Arab game of provoking Israel, keeping a tiny nation on alert and always being able to point out Israel's subjugation of the Palestinians, casting Israel as "evil" and Palestinians as "good".

There are good and bad actors on both sides, there are pure and cynical motivations on both sides. I'm tired of hearing about the 1967 borders - Israel was blockaded and threatened by an army of nations at those borders, so why would they assume going back to those borders is a solution?

In summary, as an American Jew I do not kneejerk (tribally) agree with whatever Israel does. I don't despise everything the Palestinians do. I'm able to see nuance in the situation.

Those that blame all Jews for Madoff or assume we all blindly support Israel's every action are, well, let's just say "misguided".

The I/P argument can go on forever. Perhaps trying to see both sides (and not calling people "heebs") would be a start to a solution.
Thanks for everyone's comments, especially the thoughtful and nuanced ones, to my explanation of why there should be so much American and non-Jewish sympathy for Israel. Open Salon and other blogs are a place to think outside the box, and perhaps respectfully consider the prospective of a great variety of people on certain matters - and perhaps even challenge some of the existing dogma while we are at it.
Oahusurfer and Procopius, Julie-H, Malusinka, Wendy Orange and anybodhi - thank you especially: y'all hold up the very best of what OS is supposed to be.
RCM - For the record, I do not particularly hate Palestinians - if anything, I am exasperated by sixty years of consistently making the most disasterous choice, no matter what the situation. And I do think the comparison to South Korea is perfectly valid: totally trashed infrastructure, having lost half the country in a war, bounteous outside help and interest - and completely different results.
I have to get back to work - if there is any more life in this topic, I will comment later.
Thank You RCM and anybodhi. Excellent posts.

I was at a Toronto demonstration a few days back, protesting the attack on the aid flotilla. Both groups were there; pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, on opposite sides of the road. The pro-Palestinian group included two Jewish speakers, including a holocaust survivor who echoed Anybodhi's words that there are millions of Jews who totally disagree with Israel's policies and actions; she saw herself as anti-Zionist.
There were at least ten times more on the pro-Palestinian side than on the pro-Israeli side. Yet, the following morning I saw that almost every single Canadian newspaper had only pictures of the pro-Israeli demonstration. Why is it then that those who talk of Jewish control of the media are branded as anti-semitic? Is the truth anti-semitic?

Another example, of probably over a billion, of Jewish control of the media, especially in North America. Not so much in Europe.
About 10 days ago, The Guardian reported on a ground-breaking headline story about the transfer of nuclear technology from Israel to South Africa, in the 70's I believe it was, showing documents signed by Peres and Botha, the respective Defense Ministers at the time. The story was picked up by the Daily Telegraph and BBC. This news was never reported anywhere in North America. Why? Because the drumbeat against Iran is getting louder by the day. How irresponsible Iran is and it would transfer tecnology to terrorists. So, any news of Israel trying to sell to apartheid South Africa would obviously have been an embarrasment to the war lobby.
Not only is the U.S. Congress and Senate under the Jewish/AIPAC control but so is the U.S media. And, what I say here is no different to what a Republican President ( Nixon ) was saying to Billy Graham way back in the 70's. It's all there on You Tube.

One wonders what kind of a democracy there is, when both Gaza and Washington are occupied territories.

Why this special love for Israel? I heard Biden saying well Israel is a democracy. SOOOOO? I believe there are other democracies in the world. Why don't you love Sweden that much?

And do democracies or having elections in your country give you a right to kill stone throwing children and decimate a whole family on the beach, doing nothing more ominous than having a picnic. Hundreds of Palestinians have been brutally murdered and all we here of is the attack on the Pizza joint.

Unfortunately for the war mongers, the world is seeing through the farce.
You 'don't particularly hate' the Palestinians? As in, not much more than you hate another indeterminate sort of people? Or as in, not that much? Is this what you mean by 'thoughtful and nuanced' commentary?

You see, you're fumbling a very obvious point: that the Palestinians, by and large, have been held hostage by the actions of others. It's not that the Palestinians have been largely to blame for 60 years of violence--because lest you remember, there had been little by way of unified Palestinian leadership prior to the PLO gaining prominence at the UN in the 1970s. Palestinians have mostly had to suffer indignities first at the hands of Israelis, then at the hands of their 'hosts' in the wider region, and finally--and only then--at the hands of an inept leadership (to be sure) but one without any of the advantages Israel (sovereignty, a state, Western support) or the Arab states (sovereignty, a state) are afforded. Again, you seem to be equating both sides here, when they are anything but equal contenders.

Not only have the Palestinians not had the wherewithal to do much better, they're incompetence has been matched by the incompetent and often malicious policies executed far more efficiently by both Israel and the Arab states.

And no, Sgt. Mom, South Korea is a terrible example-- I really have no idea how you're arguing otherwise. South Korea was recognised as a state from the start. A large proportion of its people weren't living abroad because of forced expulsions after the war. It did not suffer an occupation by enemy forces after the war. It was able to build institutions thanks to relative peace--and under military guarantees from one of the world's super powers--and a boat-load of aid. That aid, mind, wasn't directed at subsistence living, as has been the case with the Palestinians, but was aimed at the creation of a functioning state and economy. And that aid moreover enjoyed the considerable advantages of not having to 'start afresh' every time occupation tanks and fighter planes decided to punish the people for the actions of terrorist combatants; to start fresh every time the occupying power bulldozed homes and shops to make way for occupation settlements; to be overseen by a power distinctly hostile to your interests.

And lest you need reminding--despite my having said it many times above--it sure helped that there was de facto peace on the peninsula. Not quite the same as enduring de facto continuous warfare, waged by a far-better equipped military force, against a state-less, poor and poorly-armed people seeking liberation.

Give me a break, Sgt. Mom--that is some very sloppy reasoning. In literally no relevant way was the post-war Korean experience similar to that the Palestinians continue to endure.
I have learned a lot from reading the comments to this blog. Thank you Malusinka, Wendy Orange, and anybodhi. And of course, Sgt. Mom for offering up her blog for the discussion.
To Sgt.Mom: I had said in one of my comments, that if these mega swindlers had been Muslims, I can just imagine the expletives we would have heard.
You said I was bordering on anti-semitic when referring to the mega world record holder swindler Maddof. Well here's what he had to say about the people he swinled:

Bernard Madoff, the author of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, told inmates at the Butner prison where he is serving his 150-year jail sentence that his victims deserved what happened to them, because they were rich and greedy, according to an article in New York Magazine.

One evening a fellow prisoner kept asking Madoff about the victims of his US$65 billion scheme and Madoff, angered, said: "F*** my victims. I carried them for twenty years, and now I'm doing 150 years," the magazine reported.
I c0nfess to being baffled about what your point is, Salamander. You seem to have erected a straw-man, by saying "I can just imagine the expletives we would have heard" if the mega-swindlers had been Muslim. Expletives - from moi? Really, Salamander. Madoff was and is a convicted swindler who almost coincidentally was a Jew. Not a terrifically observant Jew, it would seem -although he made a superficial appearance of being one in order to more easily gull his fellows - and not particularly unencumbered by a moral sense - but that is an individual failing, by an individual. What slides ever so gently into antisemitism (plain old blunt term of Jew-hatred) are statements which imply that a swindler like Madoff is somehow typical of Wall Street and other persons of the Jewish persuasion.

"Not forgetting the other Jews on Wall Street. The Lehman's etc etc. Swindlers that didn't spare anyone. Would you buy a car from them?And how convenient! 70 billions gone and no one knows where! Check with the Central Bank of the Zionist enterprise..." Your words, Salamander. Brownshirts, much?
I guess my point is that everytime a Muslim is caught doing something wrong, the first attack is on his or her being a Muslim.
Whether you like it or not, almost one in every five guys walking the earth these days is a Muslim, so there's bound to be quite a few bad apples, just like there are in any other group.

Long before in the pre-9/11 era when Pakistan first detonated the nuclear bomb, the headlines all over the western media were " the Islamic bomb". Now I didn't know that bombs have a religion too.

Are American bombs referred to as Christian bombs or are Israel's 200 plus nuclear bombs referred to as Jewish bombs?
Every time the Israeli-Palestinian issue comes up, I'm always reminded of the opening scene of the movie "Gladiator" starring Russell Crowe, when the powerful Roman army is preparing to exterminate the poor backward Marcomans who keep resisting the Roman invasion of their homeland:

- People should know when they're conquered.

- Would you, Quintus? Would I?
I've been to Israel many times and love both the country and its people, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. That said, if Israeli were any other color or religion, Israel would be regarded as an apartheid state; the second-class treatment of non-Jewish citizens is well-known, except perhaps in the US. Still, one wonders, where are all the Christian and Druse Israeli suicide bombers? I suppose the best that can be said is, "Most feuds wouldn't last so long if all the fault were on one side." Shalom.