Sunday, during lunch, the richest woman in Israel, Irithe Landeau, suddenly
burst into my house and began to harangue my friends and family about Adam Shapiro.
Despite the fact she’s one of my wife’s oldest friends and was invited
to drop in after lunch, I was extremely annoyed. I reminded Irithe that my house
was not Israeli occupied territory, that it was Easter, and knowing how I feel
about the plight of the Palestinians, she should change the subject. Which she
did, turning on the press, instead, and how they gave publicity to that godawful
traitor Adam Shapiro. So I did the next best thing: I left my own house and
went for a walk.
What I found
extraordinary was the anger Irithe, an otherwise sensible woman, showed at what
she called the unfairness of the New York newspapers in reporting the facts
about Shapiro. After all, he was trapped in Arafat’s headquarters, and
he was there on a humanitarian mission. His were peaceful actions, trying to
treat the injured, and not in any way prompted against Israel. Then, of course,
came the death threats and the name-calling, which showed the corrosive hatred
that’s spilled over to these shores. Andrea Peyser, also an otherwise sensible
soul, led the traitor charge in the New York Post, which I guess places
her among the crazies who think like the rest of the terrorist crazies on both
sides of the conflict in the Middle East.
has condemned all violence and insists that his efforts were for civilians’
well-being. How that makes him a traitor is beyond me. John Walker Lindh’s
parents have not been threatened, and that miserable Taliban had effectively
borne arms against America. Throughout all conflicts, even during vicious civil
wars, humanitarian actions have been respected by combatants. Not, it seems,
when it comes to helping Palestinians trapped in the fighting in their own backyard.
as it may, in America it is not the plight of the Palestinians that dominates,
but that of Israel. My wife’s friend’s anger over Shapiro illustrates
the point. How dare the papers accord him equal coverage? The fact that Israel
enjoys a disproportionate amount of favorable coverage is immaterial. As Eric
Alterman, an MSNBC contributor, wrote, "Europeans and other Palestinian
partisans point to the fact that the Israel lobby in America is one of the strongest
anywhere, and Jewish individuals and organizations give millions of dollars
to political candidates in order to reward pro-Israel policies and punish those
who support the Palestinians. Another reason, however, is the near-complete
domination by pro-Israel partisans of the punditocracy discourse."
went on to list those columnists and commentators who can be counted upon to
support Israel reflexively and without qualification. Space prohibits me
from listing them all, but here’s a sample: George Will, William Safire,
A.M. Rosenthal, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Kelly, Martin Peretz, Daniel Pipes,
William Kristol, Mort Zuckerman, John Podhoretz, Norman Podhoretz, Mona Charen,
Fred Barnes, Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Andrew Sullivan, Irving Kristol, John
Leo, Tony Snow, Peggy Noonan, Thomas Sowell, Emmett Tyrrell, William F. Buckley,
Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Cal Thomas, Oliver North…and so on. Those
likely to oppose Israel and be pro-Palestinian regardless of circumstances came
to five, including our very own Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens, Edward
Said, Robert Novak and Pat Buchanan.
As one can
see from this list of pro-Israel pundits, it is not even close to complete.
What is to be seen is whether this unqualified support for any action Israel
takes is a good thing in the long run. "Sometime the bravest and most valuable
advice a trusted friend can give is: ‘STOP,’" said Alterman.
In Europe, where coverage of the Middle East is far more balanced, it is the
plight of the Palestinian dispossessed that is raised time and again. Israel,
needless to say, blames anti-Semitism, a charge that countries like France and
Germany cannot deny being part of their past.
these shores, it is not unusual to charge anti-Semitism against those who oppose
the brutality of Israeli occupation. Norman Podhoretz is among the first to
do so, an act I find not only unfair, but obnoxious and abhorrent. In fact it’s
the oldest trick in the book. Israel’s interests and those of the United
States are not necessarily one and the same. Also, in Henry Kissinger’s
words, as long as there are 3.5 million Palestinian refugees, they will always
have a vested interest in the destruction of Israel. And taking into account
what Bill Buckley called "inherited distinctive immunities" about
Israel and the Jews, I nevertheless believe that Sharon has been a disaster
for Israel and the region, that his plan of "Eretz Israel" means to
cleanse it of the local population and to cover it with settlements, and that
although Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, depriving people of
the right to equality and freedom, and keeping them under occupation, is hardly
a democratic act.
Israel cannot look like it’s giving in to terrorism, it also cannot kill
every Palestinian. The unqualified support it gets from the punditocracy for
Sharon’s provocative gambles will only exasperate matters. Just as the
harassment of certain individuals like myself from some Jewish groups will only
make me more determined to write the truth the way I see it.