July 6 - Aug 8, 2006
Killing for Peace
Media bias is a near-universal charge these days, coming from all directions on almost every issue. But it’s pretty hard not to notice the steep slant in American coverage when it comes to Israeli-Arab relations. Flipping channels the last week or so, it seems to be the norm for discussions about Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon to include two or more “experts” who completely concur on Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Hezbollah by decimating Lebanon. More than once, Larry King’s had a Democrat and a Republican on just so they could vigorously agree with each other. Fox News’ coverage is almost comedic in its disregard for Lebanese casualties.
It’s worth noting that there’s a lot more debate going on in Israel itself, where Haaretz, the country’s oldest daily, is harshly critical of the war, arguing that it will only lead to more deaths all around, and stressing the seemingly forgotten fact that it’s just not right to kill innocent people, even if they’re brown (the only American media figure pointing that out is the perplexing Pat Buchanan).
Of course, it is true that there’s no real negotiating with a group like Hezbollah. It’s not an overstatement to say that they won’t give up until there’s no such thing as Israel. And it’s just as true to say, though the establishment of Israel and expulsion of the Palestinians may have been unjust, that Israel has been there for over half a century, and is about as likely to go away as America is to give its land back to the natives (beyond casino-related purposes). So goes the intractable, globe-threatening struggle in the Middle East. But the question remains: why is killing civilians unconscionable when Muslims do it, but excusable when Israel does? And why is America not even pretending to urge a ceasefire?
There are a lot of reasons for the obvious pro-Israel slant in America, and it’s not just Jews in the media or the gobs of money that AIPAC throws at US politicians. There are better reasons: Israelis are culturally closer to Americans. They have a more democratic system than we do. They treat their women with dignity. They’re a secular nation with a free press. All of this puts them head and shoulders above any Shiite nation as far as how they treat their own people, and any Western liberal should be able to acknowledge that.
But that’s just it: like Americans who accuse Bush critics of “siding with the terrorists,” those who accuse Israel’s critics of the same thing fail to understand something, or at least acknowledge it. There are regular people getting blown to pieces over there. And I don’t care if they believe in some foreign god or they think it’s a grave sin to show people your hair. If they’re not firing rockets, they don’t deserve to die for the actions of other assholes.
One argument I’ve seen raised a few times now perfectly illustrates what I’m saying. It goes something like this: “If some terrorist group was firing rockets across the Mexican or Canadian border into America, would we just sit there and take it?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course—because the answer is supposed to be an obvious “no.”
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