It’s more than a little fascinating to see somebody come out and say something like “Israel was a mistake.” But that’s exactly what WashPost op-edder Richard Cohen does in today’s column.
The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself. (Full column.)
I suppose there’s a good argument to be made that where geo-politics is concerned, Israel might well be the single grandest mistake of the 20th Century. It’s nearly impossible to argue that a people as persecuted as Europe’s Jews didn’t deserve a safe haven, of course. But the decision to create that state where it currently resides… Well, what Cohen says.
My bitch is and always has been that governments need to stay the hell out of religious matters. Sure, you govern a culture in which many, if not most, of your citizens are religious, and that is a reality of your society. But the decision to locate the Jewish homeland where it is now – that was an overt privileging of a millennia-old religious claim, wasn’t it? (I’m not a history expert, and I realize that things are always more complex than I know, but seriously – isn’t Israel where it is because of our sympathy to their Biblical claim to certain sacred ground in the Holy Land?)
You watch TV like I do, so I’m sure I have not much to tell you about the ever-worsening upshot of the decision to create the modern Israel on real estate surrounded by those who hate them and resent their very existence. The morality of that hatred isn’t the issue, and I abhor the idea of making policy that caters to the worst instincts on the planet, too. But damn, I can’t help wondering what 2006 would be like if Israel had been established someplace less volatile. Where, I don’t know, but I can’t help thinking that anywhere except the Middle East is a better answer than the one we arrived at.
I mean, the ultimate goal was supposed to be about safe haven, right?
At any rate, we’re stuck with that decision, and whether or not things get better eventually, they’re certainly getting worse in the near term. Being the type of person I am, I can’t help trying to imagine solutions. But right now, short of a magic wand I can use to make us all love each other unconditionally, I honestly have no clues.
- We can’t move them, obviously.
- Given where we are now with respect to Islamic extremism in the world, we can’t well take any action that might be interpreted as surrender or capitulation. That would only embolden those who blame the US for their plight.
- Diplomacy is a wonderful idea, do any of us really believe we can negotiate our way around the insensate hatreds in the region?
- Spreading democracy? Gods, we Americans love to hear those words, but I assure, the last thing in hell we want to see across the Middle East right now is an outbreak of majority rule. (Hint: how does the phrase “Saudi President bin Laden” strike you?)
- We can certainly provide our fullest support to moderating elements in the region, but our presence in the region and support for those elements makes it harder for them to grow, not easier.
- Withdrawing our support for Israel (a nation that fairly regularly does things we ought to have problems supporting) would do nothing but insure an all-out regional fracas (at least – all that oil involved…hard to imagine outside stakeholders not taking a keen interest). The outcome of which would be a pissed off Israel winning, a jubilant Islamic extremist victory (and now they know we can be intimidated), or a giant smoldering hole in the ground so deep that the planet wobbles in its orbit. I mean, Israel has nukes, right? There’s a decent chance they’d use them to insure their own survival. Besides, even if we could see our way clear to some odd realpolitik scenario whereby this benefitted us, the immorality of such a move would be unfathomable.
I keep thinking the only solutions are education and economic opportunity, and even if I did have the aforementioned magic wand, which I’d need to make this one happen (hell, we can’t even get education and legitimate opportunity right here at home), it would be 20 years before we saw the payoff.
I’m stumped. I can’t even dream for the region at this point. If anyone has some hope for me, I’m all ears.