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Stuck in Rough Waters

June 10, 2010
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You could be forgiven for feeling that we are passing through the theater of the absurd in a front-row seat that keeps spinning out of control. But there is not a speck of amusement to be gleaned from this show -- only pain and fear.

That the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla has unleashed such an international uproar speaks volumes about the pariah that Israel has once again become in today's world. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum with regard to Israeli policy, this is a crisis we all must recognize.

It's not the predictable outbursts that are most worrisome. That the United Nations would seek an international investigation into the May 31 incident is nothing new -- think Goldstone. Nor is the latest outburst from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who called Israel a "genocidal state."

More troubling is what's seeping out of Washington.

When, for starters, the doyenne of the Washington press corps could let loose such crude sentiments as Helen Thomas did last month when she suggested that Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine," and "go home" to Poland, Germany, America or anywhere else. This occurred even before the flotilla affair, but when it went viral last week, it took on even greater significance as the line between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel grows increasingly blurry.

Then there was the suggestion by Anthony Cordesman, a foreign policy analyst, that Israel is becoming a liability, rather than an asset, to America. "The depth of America's moral commitment does not justify or excuse actions by an Israeli government that unnecessarily make Israel a strategic liability when it should remain an asset," Cordesman wrote in a commentary for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he is based.

Ultimately, it will be policies -- and not punditry and cheap shots -- that will shape the future course for Israel and its global relations. Israel is embroiled in its own internal debate about how to deal with the repercussions of all this backlash. But coming under siege does nothing to help Israelis feel that they can defend themselves -- or take risks for peace -- in a world of growing radicalism and existential threats.

"Why did Israel have to resort to a blockade?" syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in one of the most compelling defenses of Israel. "Because a blockade is Israel's fallback as the world systematically delegitimizes its traditional ways of defending itself.

"The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate self-defense," he wrote. "The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million -- that number again -- hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide ... 

 

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