An recent op-ed in the Washington Post offers an instructive example of elite opinion towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the kind of logic, or lack thereof, which guides U.S. policy.
Richard Cohen, in an article entitled, "They Honor Us With Their Hate", begins by reminding his readers of news that on September 11, 2001, "the Palestinians were cheering the deaths of about 3,000 innocent people in America".
He then proceeds to explain that this was "before America's retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan or the war in Iraq", before "Guantanamo became shorthand for abuse of the president's constitutional authority and before the outrage of Abu Ghraib"; "In other words, the demonstration by Palestinians (in the Lebanese refugee camp of Shatila) preceded most of the usual reasons given for why America today is held in contempt by much of the world."
Cohen informs his readers that he's been to Shatila and mentions Israel "allegedly abetting the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Christian forces." He notes that "The Palestinians have been mistreated by just about everybody, including, of course, their own inept and often corrupt leadership."
"Still," he continues, "the chief reason for the cheering on Sept. 11 was U.S. support for Israel. Sometimes that support has been mindless and sometimes it has been over the top, but fundamentally it is based on certain truths." Among these "truths", is that "Israel is a legally sanctioned state, created by the United Nations in 1948", Iran and "a host of militant organizations—Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and, of course, al-Qaeda—fervently wish for Israel's destruction." Cohen then adds that "There is no way the United States could appease these groups and not, in the process, trample on its own moral values. Israel on occasion is wrong—and the settlements are an abomination—but its existence is right."
Although the Bush administration has "made matters worse", "in a way, America has little choice about being hated in some parts of the world. The United States is never going to be truly popular as long as it insists on adhering to certain principles."
In conclusion, Cohen writes, "It's always nice to have friends. Sometimes, though, it's more honorable to have enemies."
In short, while Israel is sometimes in the wrong, we must support that country out of principle and should hence feel a sense of honor for adhering resolutely to our "principles" rather than seeking to "appease" Israel's enemies, even when doing so causes them to hate us as well.
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