Ira Chernus: Bombs are falling and people are dying in Gaza. It’s headline news in America’s mass media. As usual, though, we get only today’s events, with no historical context to explain what’s really going on and why.
Ira Chernus: Obama is stuck in much the same dilemma that faced Kennedy: feeling compelled, both by global geopolitical and domestic political concerns, to bolster an ally, but knowing that all the military aid in the world won’t help such a fatally flawed ally win the military victory that the U.S. government wants.
Ira Chernus: Sometimes, as the Breaking the Silence report indicates, the level of brutality grows beyond comprehension: a five-year-old child beaten; a nine year old who “posed no danger” shot to death; another child with both arms and both legs intentionally broken. The Yediot Aharonoth article offers a series of such horrifying incidents. When the full report is available on the Breaking the Silence website, it will be surely include even more heart-breaking tales.
Ira Chernus: On this Martin Luther King Day, then, American Jews face a choice. They can dwell on one casual, misinformed, easily misinterpreted remark that King made and use it to justify continued Israeli intransigence and violence. Or they can remember the words in which he summed up a lifetime of nonviolence, on the last night of his life — “I’m not fearing any man!” — and call on their own government to demand at least a start toward ending the conflict: a genuine halt to all settlement expansion.
Ira Chernus: In tough political times, Israeli leaders know that they always hold one winning card, if they know how to play it right: the fear card. The same anxiety-driven “rally round the flag” effect that works in so many nations — as we saw vividly in the U.S. after the 9/11 attack — has a well-proven track record in Israel.
In reality, Obama’s troubles are not caused primarily by “the bad guys,” nor by Israel’s supposed power or that of the domestic “Israeli lobby,” nor even, as some critics charge, his own tendency to vacillate. Instead, he’s trapped in the conundrum that’s built into U.S. containment strategy in the Middle East. No matter what other nations do or don’t do, everything that looks like it might be a solution only turns out to create new problems.
This is the way the Global War on Terror (also known, in Bush-era jargon, as GWOT) ends, not with a bang, not with parades and speeches, but with an obscure memo, a few news reports, vague denials, and a seemingly off-handed comment (or was it a carefully calculated declaration?) from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: […]