thoughts of Israel somehow always cancel thought

U.N. peacekeepers react at the sight of citizens who were killed when Israeli warplanes targeted their vehicles Saturday (July 15th) AP

I've just read two disturbing pieces in today's NYTimes Metro section describing the reaction of New York's "leaders" to the latest insanity in Israel, Gaza, Lebanon [and?]. I know it's crazy, since the subject is Israel, but somehow those paragraphs still managed to provoke some thoughts. Maybe it has something to do with "current events", a quaint expression contemporary with the very last era when people had any acquaintance with history.

Yesterday's rally for Israel on East 42nd Street, called in response to the current violence within the permanent crisis in the Middle East, inspired Clyde Haberman's latest column, titled "A Word Fails Them", devoted to the one important word missing from each of the speakers' rhetoric. We read that Israel's ambassador to the UN told the crowd, referring to his nation's raids in Lebanon, "Let us finish the job". To the many (foreign) critics who claim that Israel is using "disproportionate" force in these bombings, he answered: "You're damn right we are".

In the same column our own Congressman Jerry Nadler (normally an excellent statesman, but exercising a selective blindness on this issue as usual) is quoted asking those assembled, "Since when should a response to aggression and murder be proportionate?" Wait a minute, is he even listening to what he's saying? I thought we had answered his question pretty conclusively sometime during the twentieth century.

Sometimes it seems that not a single American politician might be found who would even begin to question conventional wisdom when the subject is Israel. And am I the only one in the country whose Jewish friends are able to talk rationally about Israel's past - and future? For the sake of all Israelis, for our own sake, for that of the entire Middle East, and for the planet's survival, I certainly hope not.

Inside today's hard copy of the paper, in a news article on page 2, Hillary Rodham Clinton repeats the tired, disastrous mantra of the need for [unquestioning] "support" for Israel:

Addressing a crowd of several thousand in Midtown at an impassioned rally for Israel, she said America must show "solidarity and support" for Israel in the face of the "unwarranted, unprovoked" seizure of three Israeli soldiers by members of Hamas and Hezbollah, which she described as among "the new totalitarians of the 21st century."
Wait a minute, "the new totalitarians"? Doesn't anyone read history any more? If there's anything essential to totalitarianism it's the existence of a state, and it seems to me that it's precisely the absence of one that started this mess and continues to fuel it today.
"We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones," said Mrs. Clinton, who joined two dozen political and religious leaders on a stage a few blocks from the United Nations headquarters on the East Side.

But this, from the same article, may even top the "new totalitarians" thing:

Bringing the threat home, she compared Israel’s military response, which has included heavy bombardment of Lebanon, to a theoretical response by the United States if it faced attacks from neighboring countries. "I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?" she said to roars of approval.
That logic would have had us bombing and blockading all of Saudi Arabia immediately after 9/11.

But I suppose my critique is irrelevant, since 9/11 is "history", and so for Americans now it can exist only as myth. Well then, moving along, let's suppose there were a border skirmish, a kidnapping, shooting or small rocket attack by non-governmental Canadian or Mexican "extremists" in Minnesota or New Mexico ["Mexico"?]. I guess then it would be okay if we bombed Toronto or Mexico City, destroyed a country's entire infrastructure, blockaded its borders and killed innocent civilians. She's probably right. Americans would totally go with it, as they've been demonstrating to the world now for almost five years.

I have to admit that I did find some perspective in the the Times piece, even if it came from the reporter and not the bloodthirsty rally participants themselves. After relating Clinton's remarks Patrick Healy writes:

Mrs. Clinton and the other speakers focused almost exclusively on Israel’s right to act militarily and unilaterally, and the speeches were fiery and resolute, with little mention of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza who have been injured in the fighting.
Even the normally contentious Congressman Anthony D. Weiner is quoted praising Bush on this one, although I can't say I understand that W has actually done anything while the bombs have been falling, and Andrew Cuomo and Mark Green "each took the stage to declare allegiance to Israel" [whatever that means, although I suppose we already know all too well].

Isn't anyone, anywhere, really thinking about this stuff?

The Times piece ends with the best picture yet of what has become of the erst-while progressive, and George McGovern presidential campaigner, whom William Jefferson Clinton took with him when he returned to Arkansas thirty some years ago:

At a separate event yesterday, Mrs. Clinton also won support from another onetime critic-turned-ally, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The New York Post, who was the host of a political fund-raiser for her in New York City.

We really do get the leaders we deserve.


In the continuing tradition of an increasingly controlled media apparatus, once again we have seen in the current hostilities almost no images of the casualties and even very few images of the people immediately affected by the violence. All of the visual news or entertainment outlets seem enthralled, as usual, by pictures of destructive hardware and colorful explosions, when they are not showing the respectable suits or robes clothing the monsters who are behind the madness.

I have been able to find a few on the Newsday site, where the written and photographic coverage of important and sensitive events is always better than most newspapers.

Israeli police and rescue workers tend to a victim's body in Haifa, northern Israel, where a Hezbollah missile exploded in a railway depot, killing 8 (July 16th) Getty Images

Lebanese civilians evacuate a corpse after the airstrikes in Tyre
(July 16th) AFP/Getty Images

[images and captions from Newsday, where the first (photographer unidentified) is credited to AP Photo, the second is by David Silverman for Getty Images, and the third is by Hassan Ammar for AFP/Getty Images]

Dear sir,

I enjoy reading your blog.
I stop by often.
Today I am commenting for the first time.
I just want to say thank you for this eloquent, sad, and point on post. I share your sentiments entirely.
If you really want to see some terrifying images, this guy has posted some that are beyond nightmarish.

Thank you for writing.
Chuck Nanney

Good post, James. It's a very distressing situation and the rhetoric of the politicians and those blind to or ignorant of history only fans the fire.

All I can say is thank you. This is the first piece I have found that actually acknowleges what this situation really is, a terrifying and sickening atrocity.

Not getting the full story from either politicians or newspapers is a much worse form of censorship than editing some stupid TV or radio program.

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Published on July 18, 2006 4:27 PM.

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