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At the Epicenter of "Us" and "Them"

By Ilya Shapiro - May 4, 2006 12:00 AM

TEL AVIV and WASHINGTON -- I returned to America with a feeling as indescribable as it is strong. Israel, this little country smaller than Lake Michigan, is both the embodiment of all man's hopes for a prosperous and enlightened future and the front line of our struggle against the forces of backwardness. It is the place where life and death collide -- fitting, perhaps, given it is the home of the Mount of Megiddo, better known as Armageddon.

On the one side there are people who made the desert bloom, who boast of 88 universities, who invent and export life-saving tools, technologies, and techniques. On the other there are those who glorify mothers who send their children to blow themselves up, who march around with signs that say "freedom go to hell," who refine methods for ever-deadlier terrorism.

This isn't about Israelis against Palestinians (or Arabs) here. It's not Judeo-Christians against Muslims. It's not even the West against the Rest. It's about truth, justice, liberty, love, and hope against lies, prejudice, oppression, hate, and despair. It's about saying enough is enough: you can enslave your own people and retard your own culture, but we treasure human life and value our civilization.

At the same time, there is so much more to Israel than war and terrorism and checkpoints and politics -- which is all we hear about in the mainstream Western media. There is post-modern dance and avant-garde art. There are more NASDAQ-registered companies than in any country outside North America. There are quotidian concerns like anywhere else in the world; as transplanted New Yorker and Jerusalem Post columnist Ruthie Bloom put it, "you're more likely to find women in a café worrying about what they're cooking for the Sabbath, or whether the guy one slept with the night before is gonna call back" than about suicide bombers.

And Israelis are arguably more in conflict with each other than with their sworn enemies to the north, east, and south. Religious versus secular, hawks versus doves, socialists versus entrepreneurs, Ashkenazis (East Europeans) versus Sephardis (North Africans and Middle Easterners), native-born versus immigrants. No wonder the recent election produced the most splintered Knesset (parliament) in history -- with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's "winning" Kadima party securing a mere 29 of 120 seats.

Perhaps most shockingly, the turnout for this election was 63 percent, the lowest in the country's history -- and approaching the famously apathetic American electorate's results in the 2004 race (just under 61%). This despite the election of arch-terror group Hamas in the Palestinian territories, now-incapacitated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's leaving his center-right Likud Party over the issue of the evacuation of Gaza settlements, and career gray man Olmert's vague plan to unilaterally withdraw from much of the West Bank (effectively forcing a de facto two-state solution). And despite all this tumult, and the politically fatigued populace, Israelis still believed enough in democracy after examining the final vote tallies to award an extra seat to an (Israeli) Arab party at the expense of a Jewish one.

Now, I've never been much of a Jew -- never had a bris, let alone a bar mitzvah, and have trouble taking anything on faith. But upon my return from a weeklong conference of young professionals in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem -- not to mention a week of eye-opening travels through Jordan -- I knew that I would forever be a Zionist. Not in the sense of the global conspiracy that makes an anti-Semite's heart beat faster. And not in the sense of defending everything that is said or done by or in the name of Israel.

No, I am a Zionist in the same way that Jews are the chosen people. Who knows if it is God or an accident of history that chose them (chose us), but Jews -- and especially the Jews of Israel -- are the bulwark and tripwire against a vast and rising tide of illiberalism and irredentism. It is unfortunate, but Jews serve to remind us that the price of liberty is indeed eternal vigilance. Today, more than ever, we are all Israelis; we are all Jews.

After all, why is a country of seven million people the only one hated more worldwide than the United States? Why is the "Israel Lobby" such a powerful force (for good) in America? Why are America and Israel each other's best allies, and always will be? Because Israel, like America, is man's last best hope for freedom in a cruel and short-sighted world.

We must, in thinking about and fighting the post-9/11 war on Islamofascism -- a better term than the open-ended "war on terror" -- always remember the better angels of our nature. We must never forget the wondrous land of Israel.

Ilya Shapiro is a Washington lawyer whose last "Dispatch from Purple America" surveyed the state of youth culture.

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17 Comments

Jewish pride
I share Ilya Shapiro's pride in being Jewish and his attachment to Israel. Any well informed observer of the Israel-Palestinian conflict can't help but be amazed at the contrast between Israelis and Palestinians in every sphere of culture and civilized society.
Israel is the envy of nations throughout the world. That envy is at the root of the anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish manifestations showing up in the world community.
One must marvel at the Israelis for their remarkable behavior and strength of character for their ability to overcome these hurdles. Their achievements are nothing short of miraculous.
Mel Moller
Stamford, CT, USA

Excellent article
Although I am not a Jew I would have to say that I have never wavered in my support of Israel.

Many here (Roy in particular) like to equate the democracy of Israel with the murderous thugs of Hamas and Fatah. One can only put so much blame on their stupidity before you have to look at the liberal media's overwhelming support for Islamofascists who would eradicate a whole culture and way of life, promote the enslavement of women, stone homosexuals, and force their perverted form of faith upon the unwilling.

Israel needs to be preserved and protected from the predations that threaten everyone who believes in the rule of law, freedom, and the democratic process.

We now open the forum to moral relativism...

Illegal, oppression!
Bolivia lost their access to the Pacific in a war with Chile in the 19th century, so now they are wholly dependent on their neighbor's largesse (Brazil included) when it comes to exporting natural gas.
When are the poor, oppressed Bolivians still trapped in Chile--by what surely must have been yet another illegal war of occupation--going to rise up and and demand "Chile Out Of Occupied Bolivia!"?? Where are the righteous suicide bombers? Where are the international welfare checks? Where's the Latin American solidarity movement on this cause?

Israel has its act together.
"Palestine" does not.
Why is that so hard for so many people to understand and accept?

and another thing...
I've never been, but I've heard the nightlife in Tel Aviv is world class. That's all the evidence I need to acknowlege Israel's right to exist.

Indeed, excellent article
I will second the notion that this is an excellent article. A couple times I thought it was going to take a hard turn and spew unbalanced rhetoric like Tlaloc chose to do, but it didn't. What a refreshing perspective of optimism and hope. Its a good reminder that Israel is a solid democracy with an equally vibrant culture.


Tlaloc: "Although I am not a Jew I would have to say that I have never wavered in my support of Israel."

Not only does this statement say you are not Jewish, it says you are un-American (and an ass kisser). Are you proud you've given up critical thinking? I don't think anyone here has equated Israel with murderous thugs like Hamas or Fatah. Israel is not innocent in its dealings with the Palestinians. Terrorists are animals and I expect them to act like that. I hold democratic nations to higher standards, so to be critical of Israel, or America, when it stoops below its standards is not a bad thing. It does not equate to overwhelming support for Islamofascists. If you're going to whine about the media, you should be critical that they're not tougher on our leaders. But Tlaloc would rather whimper the old tired talking point of "liberal media's" whatever. More of the same ideology, arrived at through low self-esteem.

"promote the enslavement of women, stone homosexuals, and force their perverted form of faith upon the unwilling."

Wow, Islamofascists have a lot in common with the right-wing.

where are the native americans?
Why aren't Native Americans doing suicide bomber missions to drive out us Anglos?? If ever a native population has been oppressed it seems the American Indian is right up there on the list.

I wonder if the reason for the lack of conflict in South America compared to the Middle East is because of religion. The disease of religion seems to afflict the Middle East much worse than South America.

"Israel has its act together.
"Palestine" does not.
Why is that so hard for so many people to understand and accept?"

Um, its not hard to understand and accept, I think just about everyone would agree that Israel has its act together and Palestine does not. Palestine is not even a real country. So, does this mean we should universally support Israel in everything it does, and conversely criticize everything Palestine does?
Doesn't this mean we should have higher expectations of Israel?

Liberal drivel
As usual Bobby.

>"Not only does this statement say you are not Jewish, it says you are un-American (and an ass kisser)."

So support for fair and democratic governments over Islamofascist terrorists is un-American and "ass kissing"? I support any government chosen by the people they govern. You don't get more American than that my friend. I don't expect you to understand that.

>"Are you proud you've given up critical thinking? I don't think anyone here has equated Israel with murderous thugs like Hamas or Fatah."

Roy's statements say exactly that so yell at him. Read other related forums and be appalled. Critical thinking has been abandoned by you and your ilk. Not me.

>"Israel is not innocent in its dealings with the Palestinians."

Innocent. No. No one is innocent in war. Restrained? Oh yes. Treated and represented unfairly by the media and people like Roy? Hell yes.

Please go here if you would like a does of reality:

http://www.ict.org.il/articles/articledet.cfm?articleid=440

>"I hold democratic nations to higher standards, so to be critical of Israel, or America, when it stoops below its standards is not a bad thing. It does not equate to overwhelming support for Islamofascists."

Fair critique is fine. Equating the IDF with terrorists is not only unfair but rather ignorant. I do not believe that Israel, or the US, has stooped below the standards of higher civilization. I believe moral relativity makes that motion perfectly and does nothing to help the fight against terrorism and Islamofascism.

>"If you're going to whine about the media, you should be critical that they're not tougher on our leaders."

Oh yes. I forget the absolute lovefest going on by the media over the Bush administration and everything it does. Yep. The media needs to stop being so softball with Bush.

>"But Tlaloc would rather whimper the old tired talking point of "liberal media's" whatever. More of the same ideology, arrived at through low self-esteem."

The only reason it seems tired is that it is a perfect call on the state of the media. As usual, bed-wetting liberals call "ideology" what most would refer to as "reality". Talk about tired whimpering...

I really don't know where you get the low self-esteem. Nothing proves my superiority more than beating you, Roy, and LG around the virtual ears. Something that I do quite often if you haven't noticed. That is why you get so angry I think. It is hard to push your twisted thinking upon people who have full confidence in themselves and no guilt over who and what they are. Without low self-esteem and guilt, liberalism would die.

>"Wow, Islamofascists have a lot in common with the right-wing."

Case in point.

and bob claims that he's not biased
Bob want's us to believe that it is the "disease" of religion that drives muslims to kill. Not the religion of muslim, just religion in general.

Apparently in bob's world, anyone who doesn't go around killing people just isn't religious enough.

In bob's world, asking people to criticize the palestinians for trying to kill everyone in sight, is the logical equivalent of approving everything Isreal does and criticizing everything the palestinians do.

And liberals wonder why the rest of the world is laughing at them.

Reality must be very difficult for you Mark

Why?
Why should we have higher expectations of anybody over anybody? Sounds like you are advocating the soft bigotry of low expectations to me. We're all human afterall. What is so different in our fundamental human wants/fears that would lead one to have higher expectations of one race/religion/country/region over another? And please don't say something along the lines of "historical oppression has led to inequality..."
Israel seeks to live as a recognized member of the world community. Why should we not hold "Palestine" to the same standard?
And claiming we support Israel in "everything" it does, and critize "Palestine" in "everything" it does is an exaggeration to say the least. I hope you realize that.

Epicenter
There are so many angles to this story, my mind is racing through 5,766 years of history, biblical predictions manifesting in our time, noble pize winners, and Einstein's article, Why Do They Hate The Jew? Collier's Magazine, New York, November 26, 1938. Or, Letter To An Arab,Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934. and yet another, The Jewish Community, speech delivered in the Savoy Hotel, London England, October 29, 1930. He ended this speech " To you all,I say, that the existence and destiny of our people depends less on external factors than on ourselves. It is our duty to remain faithful to the moral traditions which have enabled us to survive thousands of years despite the heavy storms broked over our heads. In the service of life sacrifice become grace." Last In Carnegie Hall April, 1948, "In this time of decisions so heavy with fate, what we must say to our fellow-citizens seems above all to be this: where beleif in the omnipotence of physical force gets the upper hand in political life, this force takes on it's own life,and proves stronger than the men who think to use force as a tool". I can apply this easily to the Israel vs Hamas, Hesbolla, Iran. As for the article itself, seems more of a personal awakening of a Jew who grew up outside of the Jewish comminity and for the first time felt the 5,766 years of history in his veins. The visual, the small and vioces of the people brought tears to his eyes seeing himself in others and feeling the home coming of a lost child finally finds the granfather he never. Yes there is that Israeli nationalism that is highly contagious for Jews of less exposure to their own culture. Judiasm is a universal experience, Global for now. 350 BC, Plato said "No where in the world can one go, where there is not a Jew, the seeds of Abraham, fighting for the love of the Father. King Davids Jerusalem came back to the Jewish people as predicted 2,500 or so years ago in the old Testament, if someone wants it, let me know I'll go into my library. The USA has a special relationship with the Jews of the World since George Washington asked Hyam for money to finance the American Revolution, So George's presidential seal is the firt 13 stars for the first States, arranged Star of David, and Alexander Hamilton the first secretary of treasure, Jew who wasn't allowed to go to regular scool in America, graduated from a Jewish school in America. The polish Jews financed George's revolution, the one dollar bill reflects the knowledge of the Jews in America, and the Masonic lodge was the first American Bank, run by Alexander Hamilton. Most developed countries have this type of Jewish influence, We are a global people, we give the world One God through Abraham, we give you law and order Moses, we give you love Jesus the Jew, we give you science and science fiction from King Solomon, Einstein, Steven Speilberg and Joel Silver for your entertainmemt. The Kabbalah, a universal gift to Jews, teach the world how to talk to the Angels as Jacob's ladder, and of the Israeli's invented the cell-phone, life without Jews is not the same as life without Mexican Immigrants. Jews have always paid their own way, never begged for anything. It's not easy being a Jew, the author realized this in Israel, truly an awakening to himself. Proud to be Human first, and then proud to be a Jew, Shalom, follow history.

because of reality
Good points Duffman. I don't intend to advocate for different expectations for different people. Ideally all humans would be equal and held to the same expectations. I totally agree with that. But I think reality is different. For example, take a loyal, hardcore member of al Qaeda. That person might see his quest as noble, and I don't expect he would care about killing innocent civilians when he sets off a car bomb. Whereas, when an American soldier orders a missile strike on a building I do expect he is concerned about killing innocent civilians. When terrorists take a hostage in Iraq, I expect that person is a goner, that the terrorists will probably behead the hostage. When Americans capture a terrorist in Iraq, I don't expect that terrorist to be a goner, in fact I expect the treatment of that terrorist will not rise to the level of torture. When we torture a prisoner it is the same as telling our enemies that it is ok with us if they torture us when we become a prisoner of theirs.
Its a foregone conclusion to me that terrorists are dirty dogs that will do anything. That doesn't mean I accept what they do, but it does likely mean that I don't constantly waste my breath criticizing the terrorists, because they are doing what I've come to expect them to do. I already know they're dirty dogs, so does everyone else, so we don't need to keep shouting it to each other. I would hope the terrorists would treat the hostage the same as we would treat a terrorist prisoner, but thats not realistic. Its also not fair, but I don't think we should lower ourselves closer to their level. It strengthens our civility when we hold to our standards even in the face of horrific injustice. And you know, thats easy to say, but is very difficult to maintain in action. I'm guilty too. I'd say more of us are guilty than innocent in this idea. So the self-certitude of people who argue in support of torture, or the absolute righteousness of Israel or America, or GW Bush for that matter, is very concerning.

"Israel seeks to live as a recognized member of the world community. Why should we not hold "Palestine" to the same standard?"

Good point. And I think we should try to hold Palestinians to the same standard. But they are not on the same level as Israel. They are not an officially recognized nation, they don't have a stable government, they don't have even close to the technology of Israel. I think you said it earlier Duffman, Palestine doesn't have it together and Israel does. The Palestinians have totally chosen the wrong methods to achieve their goals, we all know that, we expect it, I think we all agree, so I don't waste my breath criticizing them, its a foregone conclusion. We'll know Palestine is moving in the right direction when we have to worry about civil war in the territories, thats how screwed up they are. Israel, on the other hand, makes mistakes by fighting violence with violence. Israel is the guy with the gun at the knife fight. They could squash the Palestinians like a bug if they wanted. They do nothing but inflame violence when they tear down family homes, wipe out orchards and kill children throwing rocks with snipers. Both sides are guilty. I expect more from Israel, so I criticize them more. I still support Israel, they have a right to exist. But both sides are just sinking themselves, I've come to expect that from the Palestinians, but I expect more from Israel.

"And claiming we support Israel in "everything" it does, and critize "Palestine" in "everything" it does is an exaggeration to say the least. I hope you realize that."

I hope its an exaggeration. Some of the rhetoric I see/hear does not indicate this exaggeration. I interpreted Tlaloc's statement:
"Although I am not a Jew I would have to say that I have never wavered in my support of Israel."

as not being this exaggeration. Add his moronic comments that liberals equate Israel with Hamas and I'm even less inclined to think he is exaggerating. But why the rhetoric then? Exaggerated rhetoric to rouse the herd, or the base, is not an acceptable excuse. Say what you mean, or shut up (is what I think). I don't think America in general is totally one-sided in the Middle East conflict. I do think America favors Israel, obviously, but we've been tough on Israel to make some progress also. I'm more critical of extremist nutjobs using the rhetoric.

bob is so far gone
that he actually believes the above post constituted a valid rebuttal.

Stop acting like you know what the word rebuttal means Mark

Stay tuned
Points well taken. Israel may do well by turning the other cheek rather than fighting violence with violence. Unfortunately, it seems that a large portion of the world only understands strength, military strength being the most overt form. For all it's criticisms, Israel must be recognized for the tremendous amount of restraint she shows as well. Rest assured, if the shoe were on the other foot, Israel would be no more.
Ehud Olmert is scheduled to be in D.C. this weekend, ostensibly to drum up support for his partition plan. Carolyn Glick argues we should tell him to stick it basically.

http://americanthinker.com/articles.php?article_id=5468

It will be interesting to see what he comes away with. Maybe a good litmus test as to the level of support we're willing to give Israel.

If anybody is interested, Michael Totten has some insightful posts on his blog right now regarding his travels in Israel. Also an excellent 5 part series about a recent car trip through Turkey and into Kurdish Iraq.

http://michaeltotten.com/

in this case, it means proving you wrong
which I have done.

LOL! Mark, all you've proven is that you're a dumbass
Lets run it down, because this is hilarious. Here is everything you've typed on this thread Mark, not including Subject lines:

"Bob want's us to believe that it is the "disease" of religion that drives muslims to kill. Not the religion of muslim, just religion in general."

WRONG. You're totally twisting what I said. I postulated a question in response to someone else's comment, that I wonder if its the disease of religion that causes so much violence in the context of occupied territories, in the Middle East when compared to South America.

If you choose to be a religious bigot, thats your business, but don't drag me down with you. Heres an example of balanced perspective: Historically speaking its very difficult to define which religion has caused more death and destruction than any other. A fair bet would put Christianity and Islam as the top 2 most destructive. In the current day it seems Islam is the more violent religion. Terrorists have usurped Islam, they've leveraged Arab discontent and defined Islam in a way to achieve their political goals.

"Apparently in bob's world, anyone who doesn't go around killing people just isn't religious enough."

WRONG. Actually, the bob's world you speak of might not be a bad idea. It would be miserably violent for the short term, but when the smoke clears there would be no more extremist religious wingnuts. That would be a good result for EVERYBODY. But, unlike Mark and his idol George W, the means do matter in getting to the ends, so this is a bad, very unethical idea. Thanks for bringing it up though Mark.

"In bob's world, asking people to criticize the palestinians for trying to kill everyone in sight, is the logical equivalent of approving everything Isreal does and criticizing everything the palestinians do."

WRONG. You're such a simpleton. First of all, the palestinians aren't trying to kill everyone in sight, its the terrorists doing that. Can you separate the two? I would normally gloss over that detail for people with more intelligence, but I wonder if your bigotry is stronger than your ability for complex thought.

You're totally misrepresenting what I said, again. You're like Ann Coulter Jr., defining the people you hate as a ridiculous position so you can more easily beat them up. Read the post I typed down the thread with "because of reality" in the subject line. That is my position. Another lesson in balanced perspective for you. Its subtle, so you might not understand.

"And liberals wonder why the rest of the world is laughing at them."

Like I said before, reality must be very difficult for you Mark.


"that he actually believes the above post constituted a valid rebuttal."

WRONG. Again. It wasn't a rebuttal. It was a response to a personal attack. You got the Ann Coulter Jr. thing going for you. You're so busy defining what I believe, what I think, its all about bob's world to you. You're like a modern day Democrat. Right? All you can do is lash out at the other side and you have no ideas of your own. Right? LOL

"which I have done."

WRONG. Beautiful way to wrap it up though. Thats a beauty of the human mind, you can believe whatever you want. I'm sorry if this upsets you Mark, but the more you have to tell yourself and others how great you are, the more likely it is that you're not so great.

Thats 5 WRONGs for you Mark, and you didn't even say anything that was worthwhile to the discussion.

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