“Evenhanded” in the Mideast is moronic

The current turmoil in the Middle East is, as usual, a Goddamn shame, and some Americans, including Leftist Jews such as Bernie Sanders (not a practicing Jew) are urging the U.S. to take an “evenhanded approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

To which I reply — why?

Hamas rockets head toward Israel (Photo: Newsweek)

Create an equivalency between those firing thousands of rockets into their neighbor, and the neighbor defending herself? Hamas started this insanity.

I have been answering such thinking over the decades, often from anti-Semites, but also from people who are clueless — such as U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — about the history of the region. 

They hear someone use the word “oppressed” and they snap to attention and salute, without bothering to examine the facts. 

Why would you be evenhanded between your closest ally in the Mideast and those who danced in the streets on 9/11?

The current fighting is between Israel, a democracy, and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza. Why would we be evenhanded? 

Before we were drawn into World War II, was the U.S. evenhanded between democratic England and fascist Nazi Germany? We were not, for good reason. 

I could write a lot more, but at this point I will turn it over to excerpts of a letter from David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, who says it better than I can:

To become evenhanded between the aggressor and the victim?

Between the arsonist and the firefighter?

Between the tyranny and the democracy?

Between Iran’s proxy and the country Iran seeks to annihilate?

Between the group initially designated as a terrorist organization by the Clinton Administration and the staunch American ally?

Between the group that calls for “Death to America” and the country that built a memorial to the 9/11 victims?

Between one of the most regressive groups on earth and one of the world’s most progressive countries?

Between the group that denies rights to women, LGBTQ, and minorities and the country that protects those rights?

Between the group that openly seeks Israel’s annihilation and the country that won’t let it happen?

Between the group that uses civilians as human shields and the country that seeks to shield civilians?

Between the group that squanders precious funds to build cross-border tunnels and deadly missiles and the country that allocates precious funds to build tunnel-defense and missile-defense systems?

No, this shouldn’t be about “evenhandedness.” When it comes to American values and interests, it’s abundantly clear where they lie.

American evenhandedness has long been a goal of Israel’s relentless foes.

Their view is straightforward: Drive a wedge between Washington and Jerusalem. Undermine Israel’s key pillar of international support. End the special U.S.-Israel relationship.

That will significantly weaken Israel, the thinking goes, since there’s no other obvious candidate on the global stage — nor in the all-important UN Security Council — to fill any American-created vacuum.

Of course, such a move would have calamitous implications.

It would be an affront to who we are as a nation and what our core interests are. As I suggested, the fundamental dichotomy, for instance, between Hamas and Israel couldn’t be starker from an American perspective.

It turns a blind eye to history and reality. Gaza had a chance, the first in its history, to rule itself in 2005. Israel, which has a profound stake in Gaza’s moderate path, cannot be held responsible for the violent takeover by Hamas in 2007 and the tragic course it’s charted in the ensuing 14 years.

And it would set back the larger quest for peace.

Roughly the size of Sanders’ Vermont, but without gentle neighbors, Israel has achieved peace accords in the region because it felt it had the full backing of the U.S. It could, therefore, afford to take unprecedented territorial risks, as in the 1979 treaty with Egypt, as well as enjoy other tangible outcomes, such as the four normalization deals last year, in which, again, Washington was key.

Let’s be clear: The primary beneficiaries of “evenhandedness” would be Iran and other extremist forces in the region, which ought to be the last thing Washington wants.

At the end of the day, though, the name of the game is the unquenchable search for peace — real, enduring peace.

Israel’s early leaders, who were inspired by a vision of enlightened socialism, Camembert to an inescapable conclusion in the months leading up to the nation’s rebirth in 1948.

Just three years after the trauma of the Holocaust, peace, alas, was not going to be quick and easy, in spite of Israel’s outstretched hand on day one.

If peace were ever to come, Israel would first have to survive the military campaign to eliminate it — five Arab armies attacked on May, 15, 1948, Israel’s first full day of independence —and then prove again and again that it was there to stay.

Only when its neighbors came to the realization that it was permanent — and, I might add, that Jews were indeed indigenous, not interlopers, in the Middle East — could the seeds of possible peace be planted.

And that’s meant, alas, the projection of power when needed, and exercised as responsibly as humanly possible.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be needed. Indeed, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah was among the first to articulate a vision of that ideal world — “And nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.”

Similarly, the revolutionary notion of “B’tselem Elohim” — all human beings are created in the image of God — is equally part of that genetic code. It means we mourn, not celebrate, the loss of innocent lives, whether in Gaza or elsewhere.

But the Middle East, regrettably, is not Sanders’ New England. The weak don’t survive. The naive don’t prosper. The powerless don’t make peace. The songs, prayers, and campfires too often fall on deaf ears.

Unlike Egypt, Hamas has not made a fundamental shift in its thinking from warmonger to peacemaker. Rather, it’s a ruthless, theocratic regime that seeks to expand its power and has as its goal the removal of Israel and its replacement by a caliphate.

So what’s the basis for any dialogue? The terms of Israel’s disappearance?

To be sure, one makes peace with one’s enemies, not friends. But either one side surrenders and raises the white flag, or a radical shift in thinking takes place, as was the case with the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

Neither has occurred to date.

So, Israel has little choice but to live uneasily with Hamas on its border, seek as best it can to deter it from missile barrages and terrorist attacks, make clear its battle is not with the people of Gaza but their leaders, and hope that one day the current regime will be replaced by something more forward-looking. If so, the region might actually then move a step closer to peace.

15 thoughts on ““Evenhanded” in the Mideast is moronic”

  1. You make the main points for the support of Israel in the present situation. As of this time in my mind is the religious fervor on both sides that preclude a final two-state resolution of the problem. Security under the “right to exist” cloak is something that the U.N. would seek but they are for the most part are anti.- Israel. Palestine has support to have their own state from most of the world and has been so stated by the U.N. Hamas by providing security and welfare continue to be reelected and feels that power in discussions with all sides and additionally with the backing of Iran. U.S. money spent in Israel and the occupied territory by the U.S. should be a tool in deep discussions with both sides. It has now been over seventy years that every American president has submitted a proposal for a solution to the problem. And then the Protestant’s land buyers seeking the end of the world also interfere with a settlement. I know at one time a chance was lost by the Palestinians that could have settled the war but they stupidly rejected it. The positions have over time have become more concrete especially with Hamas leading the way but the power of the religious groups still stall any settlement.


  2. Tom Friedman has an insightful column in today’s NY Times; seems better times ahead derailed by extremists on both sides. Rebuttal?

    Once again, I have to say that President Donald Trump has a very good understanding of world affairs. We were all headed in the right direction for a change. People sat up and listened to what Trump and his team had to say.
    As of today, we are in a downward spiral towards everything negative and the only hope is to clean out Washington D.C.. Rebel rousers like the unfabulous four and our delegates from California and New York have to go.
    DRAIN THE SWAMP starting tomorrow.

  4. Why is it American Jews vote primarily Democrat, the very party that is anti Israel? Is living in America ruining Jewish thinking?

  5. Good evening Mr. Bykofsky,

    Remarkably, we didn’t hear a peep from the media the past four years about the Middle East. They were either too busy publishing hundreds of daily anti-President stories to pay attention to the region or there was some semblance of calm with nothing to report.

    As Election Day approached last year I was predicting to my close acquaintances if a certain person were to be elected as President we would soon be returning to non-stop narratives about the Middle East. It didn’t take long.

    All of your observations are true. Thank you for your excellent work.

  6. Just think of our response if Mexico started hurling rockets into the US.

  7. judging from my wife’s internet fueled commentary the zeitgeist( similar to the kids in cages canard) is clearly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause- ditto my teenagers communist embracing friends( many who are Jewish).This has me concerned for the future of Israel the future of Jews and the future of America.It reminds me of my Krasner supporting neighbors who cry about their Amazon packages being stolen.

  8. Excellent article. You tell the facts and speak the truth. I wish everyone in the world would hear you.

  9. As always, an excellent article, Stu. I’ll never understand the “total” Israeli/Palestinian situation in its entirety because I’m not Jewish, but it seems to a bystander like me that the hatred between the parties involved is irreconcilable. All we can ever hope for is detente where war is the last remedy. Yet, whenever Israel capitulates in any way, the media always sees Israel as being the aggressor. Why do American Jews hate Israel, and therefore their own Jewishness?

    1. I agree Bill. Great article. And I too don’t understand the total situation.
      But do believe the hatred is one-sided. Hamas hates Jews. Just like their backers, Iran. They live to hate. I’ve read that the Palestinian children are taught this. How can there be reconciliation when only one side wants to?

    2. American Jews do not hate Israel, but the level of affection is eroding. With that said, a huge majority of U.S. Jews support Israel, not necessarily Netanyahu.

  10. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    This is certainly a tough one.

    If as you say, “evenhanded in the Mideast is moronic,” still “moderation” in our Mideast commitments is very sensible.

    No more $trillion or unending U.S. Mideast wars!

    As long as we keep our noses in there, we take responsibility and people expect the U.S. to solve all problems. This means they are relieved of responsibility for solving their own problems. But, in fact, no one else can solve them.

    It seems the Biden administration has taken the course of quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy –to get the two sides talking to each other instead of sending over rockets and war planes. That may not work, given the history. But its a good idea.

    H.G. Callaway

    1. The Right is portraying Biden as being anti-Israel, like the “progressives.” That is bullshit. He is pro-Israel and handled this properly.

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