- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Last week, tens of thousands of Jewish Americans, in an expression of solidarity with their co-religionists, demonstrated in front of the Capitol in favor of supporting Israel in the current war. A few days later several thousand Arab Americans demonstrated in the same place in favor of supporting the Palestinians in that same war, once again because they believed their ethnic and religious cousins were in danger. Around the country countless millions of Christians speak out firmly to support Israel because they believe that unambiguous biblical prophesy requires it. And, a lesser number of non-Jews express (mostly on the Internet) their opposition to American support for Israel because … they don't like Jews.

Journalists and policy experts with long-held views on the Arab-Israeli struggle join representatives of the Jews, Palestinians and Bible-following Christians as the major participants in television policy debates. (Non-Muslim Jew-haters are, thankfully, never invited.) In the television and radio debate process, historically verifiable facts are usually mangled out of willful ignorance or malignant knowledge. We hear these advocates give reasons for their positions. But, as John Le Carre once asked in another context: "Reason as logic, reason as motive, or reason as a way of life?"

One would like to think that, at a time when American soil is threatened with nuclear, biological and chemical mega-deaths, American television would focus the public debate on what is in America's national interest. But it rarely does.

Logic plays a paltry part in these debates. It is all motive and old habits: Palestinian advocates motivated to mislead the public regarding Israeli Defense Force actions; Israeli advocates motivated to understate the assertive Israeli policies of 1947-49 and the contribution that Israel, as well as the Arabs, have made to the injustices that exist in the Holy Land; policy experts who support or oppose Israel out of academic habits formed long before American vital interests needed to be added to the equation.

While morality, justice and ethnic sentiment are all important parts of American foreign policy, the American public has a right to hear those values debated coolly, in the context of the immediate terrorist threat to our lives.

For instance, many reasonable people believe that American exposure to terrorist attacks could be substantially reduced if America removed itself from the Middle East thus reducing Arab anti-Americanism. I disagree, because it is just as likely (if not more so) that such a retreat would only embolden the terrorists to further aggression against us.

But, whichever side of that argument one takes, how does one weigh the plight of Israel in that equation? If we decided we could protect ourselves from terrorist attack, but only by leaving Israel to the wolves, should our sense of solidarity with fellow democratic Israel nonetheless decide our policy? When was the last time you heard that debate on television?

We hear a lot about the Palestinian plight, and the Israeli plight and America's responsibility to them or to the cause of peace. But what about America's plight and our responsibility to our own citizens?

Most of the media commentators assume that we can't carry our fight against terrorism to Iraq, Syria and Iran until we have mediated the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But it is more likely the case that we can't mediate that dispute until we have eliminated the terrorist bases of support in Iraq, Syria and Iran. But that debate is not engaged in the mass media.

Let me be forthright. As between Israel and the Arabs, I have always been more sympathetic to Israel. I believe that their right to exist within secure borders trumps even the justifiable Palestinian land claims. There is enough room in all of Arabia for the Palestinians (who, in historic fact were not considered a nationality by their fellow Arabs but merely part of the Arab people until the last couple of decades).

But that heartfelt sentiment, developed by a genuine effort to understand the history of that land and those peoples, must be subordinated to my best judgment of the demands of American national interest. I would think that the demands of patriotism require that same commitment from all American citizens.

But whether by laziness of old habits of thinking, or by virtue of ethnic sentimentality, much too much of the current debate focuses only on the primary interests of entities other than America.

Arguing exclusively from American national interest, the current facts justify strong support of Israel. It is a potent and geographically useful military ally in what may well be a prolonged struggle against Islamist extremism and terrorist violence. It is a potential model and partner for future Arab democracy and prosperity in a land pitiably without either (and we have an interest in trying to induce progress in Arabia for our own safety's sake). Of course, there are reasonable people who would surely disagree.

But because our foreign policy is inevitably effected by public attitudes, our national media has a duty to publicly focus such a debate through the prism of American national interest not ethnic sentiment or academic shibboleth.

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