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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Understanding the Anti-Israeli Left

Michael Totten, a self described liberal, describes his personal political views and explains the left's general anti-Israeli bias. Read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts.

Most people on the left, whether they are mainstream or radical, reflexively side with the underdog; labor unions, mom-and-pop businesses, poor people, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, social minorities (like gays), and citizens of the Third World. Most on the right reflexively side with the overdogs; management, large corporations, the wealthy, social and religious majorities, and the West. Clearly there are large numbers of individuals for whom this doesn�t apply, and any individual can make exceptions (as I sometimes do). But it�s true more often than not, so it works as a generalization.
I initially sympathized with the Palestinians for this reason and only this reason. When I knew next-to-nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict and I saw photographs of Palestinian kids throwing rocks at Israeli tanks, it was a no-brainer to side with the kids. I�d do the same today without apologies if I didn�t have more information.
I never excused the terrorists. They were undermining the Palestinian cause, and they made it difficult to support them. But I didn�t think it right for extremists to discredit the majority. Even after September 11 I maintained this view.
Still, I knew I was unfairly biased. I didn�t understand the Israeli view. So I read Thomas Friedman�s From Beirut to Jerusalem. He is fair to both sides, and that�s why I picked him. When I finished the book I was no longer biased. Though he tilts toward Israel himself, Thomas Friedman put me in the middle. I gave each side a hearing and split the difference.
I kept reading, and I kept learning. I discovered that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not fighting for a state in the West Bank and Gaza. They are fighting for a Taliban regime �from the river to the sea,� including all of Israel. They say negotiation is treason, and that means war. I learned about Arafat�s education system, which glorifies suicide murder.

In a nutshell, the more I learned, the more I leaned toward Israel.
Some people are simply out of their league; they don�t know the history and facts of this conflict. They don�t know the background, and the background is long and complex. Their views are like mine were just over a year ago. They are vaguely informed and they try to be fair. They want a settlement now, not a settlement later. They think they know what the endgame will look like, so they berate anyone who doesn�t move toward it directly. And they�re stuck in a reflexive underdog-ism that takes a great effort to break.

Go read the whole thing.