Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mark Steyn Assesses the ISG Report; How Should Israelis Feel About Current Events?

has read the ISG (which he presumes to stand for "Illustrious Senior's Group"), and he was not impressed. Please read his entire Dec. 10, 2006 column in the Chicago Sun-Times. Here are some apertifs:

After noting that the ISG report recommends the formation of a multi-national Iraq Support Group, whose members would include Syria, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, the Gulf States, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Counsel (the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia), the European Union and a special envoy appointed by the U.N. Secretary General, Steyn observes:
Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."
On the ISG's recommendation to work cooperatively with Syria and Iran:
The Surrender Gran'pas assert that Iran and Syria have "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq." This, to put it mildly, is news to the Iranians and Syrians, who have concluded that what's in their interest is much more chaos in Iraq.
What Steyn brings out humorously is tragically not really very funny. Consider how Israelis should view the events of the past week. After Syria and Iran have armed and financed Hezbollah, first to attack Israel and now to overthrow the government of Lebanon; after Syria and Iran have armed, trained, financed and sheltered the insurgents--both Sunni and Shiia--that foment unrest in Iraq and murder U.S. and allied troops and civilians; after Syria and Iran do everything in their power to defy and defeat the U.S.; the Iraq Study Group advocates dialogue with them, cooperation with them, negotiation with them; and indicates that the price for this dialogue is Israeli return of the Golan Heights and settling "the Palestinian right of return."

On that last point, Steyn notes:
And, incidentally, how did that phrase -- "the right of return" -- get so carelessly inserted into a document signed by two former secretaries of state, two former senators, a former attorney general, Supreme Court judge, defense secretary, congressman, etc. These are by far the most prominent Americans ever to legitimize a concept whose very purpose is to render any Zionist entity impossible. I'm not one of those who assumes that just because much of James Baker's post-government career has been so lavishly endowed by the Saudis that he must necessarily be a wholly owned subsidiary of King Abdullah, but it's striking how this document frames all the issues within the pathologies of the enemy.
To continue our effort to empathize with Israelis' reactions to the current events, consider that in the same week, Robert Gates, in his Senate confirmation hearings to be the next Secretary of Defense, all but rules out the use of force to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. One might readily interpret his testimony to be a policy declaration from the George W. Bush Administration that if military force is the only way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Israel is on its own. Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosts a Holocaust deniers conference, at which he repeats his vow that the demise of Israel is at hand.

In the same week, a former U.S. President and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, whom the international community, if not many Americans, hold in high regard, publishes a virulently anti-Israel book outrageously entitled, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. It is filled with half-truths and outright falsehoods, but is highly acclaimed by academia and the media elites, and becomes a best seller. President Carter, in defense of his book, repeats the charge that is currently so popular with American scholars and enemies of Israel, that the American Jewish community, lead by the American Israel Political Action Committee, has suppressed open political debate in our country about the Middle East. In a column in the Los Angeles Times, Carter writes:
For the last 30 years, I have witnessed and experienced the severe restraints on any free and balanced discussion of the facts. This reluctance to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of the American-Israel Political Action Committee and the absence of any significant contrary voices.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City or even Bethlehem and talk to the beleaguered residents. What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.
[Apparently President Carter does not regularly read the Los Angeles Times, which fills its news pages and op-ed section with articles and columns critical of Israel.]

In the face of all of this, if you were an Israeli, how would you feel?


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