Or, Do We Have to Take Sides in the Middle East?

I realize it must be a difficult or dangerous question since no politician in any party except Jimmy Carter has been willing to even mention the subject. BUT, why isn’t this country even considering an open and adult discussion about whether Israel should be asked to obey UN resolutions?

It seems kind of hypocritical since our current White House occupant justified launching a peremptory invasion of Iraq on the grounds that it wasn’t “obeying UN resolutions.” For decades, Israel has been holding conquered land outside the original borders that were granted it by UN vote back in 1949. Israel freely admits displacing locals and creating permanent new settlements inside what amounts to another country despite UN repeated demands the land be returned. We didn’t let a Muslim country get away with that in 1990.

Whatever is thought of the comparative violations of Iraq and Israel, whatever might be Israel’s improved security position as a result of keeping such land, however much we admire underdog Israel’s success against high odds, however much Israel is a useful base of operations for us, and even with the horrific memory of Holocaust suffering, shouldn’t we be consistent regarding such military occupations? Even if Israel initially got control of the extra land in self defense, shouldn’t we be at least debating publically the merits of it if we are dragged into the conflict as a consequence?

Unfortunately, evidence strongly suggests our failure to address such issues is what’s driving a significant portion of the animosity toward us in the Muslim and non-Muslim world alike. Granted, they now have other independent reasons to despise us, but the fact that Basque, Chechen, South American, and Northern Irish terrorists, to name a few other violence prone sorts, are not attacking us speaks for itself. Over the years, there does seem to be a correlation between some of the terrorist attacks on Americans and our open approval of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Attacks on us seemed fewer when we pretended to be neutral. The appearance of neutrality we once had though has long since vanished from the speeches of those running things in Washington now days.

We have much to gain by Israel’s strength and independence and we definitely need to honor our defense treaties, as all treaties should be. At the same time, it seems like Israel’s goal of unilaterally expanding boundaries and making armed incursions may be dragging us into unwanted, unneeded quagmires. Besides, how can we expect the UN to be an effective peacekeeper if we won’t respect it ourselves?

Surely, we ought to at least consider asking Israel to either obey UN resolutions or look elsewhere in the future for largess if it refuses. If it wants to keep the land forcibly taken, okay. However, perhaps it should do it without our tacit approval and funds.

Of course, not everyone agrees the UN resolutions imposed on Israel should be obeyed. And, I recognize that anyone who even thinks about being even handed in the Middle East is instantly branded as having religious prejudices. Look how former President Carter is being treated. Apparently, board members of the Carter Center have resigned due to his merely raising the vexing question. Nevertheless, isn’t it a fair question for our democracy to consider. After all, the stakes are almost astronomically high. Literally trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives, and our own nation’s way of life, not to mention the bill of rights which defines our society, are all at risk from the consequences.

If Israel’s independent actions did not adversely affect us, it might be none of our business except general concern about everyone acting nice toward each other. Quite obviously though, that isn’t the case here. We ourselves have been put at risk. Therefore, aren’t there any politicians, pundits or press besides Carter brave enough or that care sufficiently about unintended disastrous side effects on American lives and American interests to at least open an inquiry?

Clearly there are pros and cons on each side. Clearly there are impassioned emotions on each side. Perhaps we’ll decide to continue as is. Perhaps we will decide the cost and risk is even worth increasing. So be it. But, shouldn’t we be at least openly talking about it. . . like adults? How can we make intelligent informed decisions if the politicians, the press and the public are all gagged from merely discussing the subject?

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