Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our unquestioning policy towards Israel

The U.S. can support Israel without having to reflexively back every one of their actions. While the American public was split roughly 50-50 in whether they approved of Israel's recent invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Senate unanimously backed a resolution supporting the Israeli incursion, and only five Members of Congress dissented.

Now Charles Freeman, an otherwise well-qualified former ambassador--chosen by Obama to lead the National Intelligence Council--is being labeled an extremist because he is willing to ask tough questions about America's interests in the Middle East and how they intersect with Israel's.

I've read a fair amount about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (including all 800 pages of Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001), and I also have a personality that is open to seeing most situations from more than one perspective. While I have tremendous sympathy for the plight of the European Jews in the 20th century and am well aware of the horrors that have been witnessed inside Israel, I can't simply ignore the plight of the Palestinians. Historical grievances have weight, yet contemporary ones must outweight them. Balancing the competing needs to recognize how we've gotten to where we are and facing the realities of today is essential. I know I don't have the answer, but I'm confident it can't be found by only addressing the concerns of one of the two parties in conflict. In order for our nation to play a role in the Middle East process, we have to be willing to listen to both sides... and willing to ask tough questions.

Freeman seems like the kind of guy who can do that.

More background from Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal, and Andrew Sullivan.

UPDATE: Immediately after completing this post, I saw that Freeman has withdrawn his name from nomination. Sad.

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