Due to the recent firing of Air America radio host Mike Malloy, there has been much discussion about the role his criticism of Israel may have played in his firing. As a part of this discussion, more criticism of Israel has come up.
It seems that many people "on the left" feel that they should be anti-Israeli or at least heavily critical of Israel, and some even feel that they should be supporting Palestinian and Lebanese "resistance groups".
I must say that this is a completely reprehensible and backwards situation.
First of all, a lot of this has to do with several factors.
- Noam Chomsky, who is idolized by many "leftists", is pro-Islamic resistance, because he is pro any kind of resistance to America.
- The Palestinian liberation movement was originally a leftist, even a Marxist, movement... 20 years ago.
- People like the underdogs and they hate the dominant groups. Israel is seen as dominant and they have the support of America.
- In the past 10 or 15 years many American Fundamentalists have become rabid supporters" of Israel.
This is a very unfortunate situation, because the issues are complex and many people are confused.
First, Noam Chomsky, while he does have his legitimate points, and has made many contributions to leftist political scholarship in the last 30 years, is simply wrong on so many points. He is wrong as a linguist about the nature of language and the propensity of animals to acquire language. He is wrong in his post-modernist views about there not being any meaningful reality and that "all values are equal", etc. He is wrong in his belief that "democracy makes right". He is wrong in his attitude towards America, that essentially whatever is bad for America must be good, which is utter nonsense.
The fact of the matter is that, overall, in the big scheme of things, America is still a relatively liberal place, and America is still one of the primary bastions of civilization in the world, as is Israel. Yes, some countries are indeed better than others, some values are better than others, some ways of life are better than others. America is far from perfect, but neither America nor Israel deserve to be sacrificed to religious fundamentalist barbarians, either internal ones or external ones. Secular liberals have a hard enough time fighitng against internal religious fundamentalists in both America and Israel, we don't need more problems by fighting against the external ones too. Opposition to religious extremism requires a united front, we can't have a large porition of the so-called "leftists" supporting radical Islamic fundamentalists in a war against Israel, that's just insane.
Secondly, yes, the Palestinian liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s was led by Marxists and other leftists groups, but in case you didn't notice, those guys are no longer in the picture. They have been replaced by ultra-right-wing Islamo-fascists, to use a phrase from President Bush. Again, just because Bush calls them Islamo-fascists doesn't mean that they aren't. I don't like Bush, but I'm not going to spite Bush by supporting radical Islamic terrorists either.
Thirdly, being an underdog doesn't make you right and isn't a de facto endowment of moral authority. Yes, in the United States we have a major history of oppressed underdogs who were right, and who had to fight in the face of oppression by people who were wrong, but real life is not Hollywood and it doesn't follow scripts. Neither being the underdog nor the dominant force makes you right or makes your cause just. In addition to that, the Israelis are really the underdogs anyway, they are the ones surrounded by enemies who have publicly stated for the past 50 years that they want to eliminate them.
Just because you are opposed to US imperialism, which I am, does not mean that you should automatically be opposed to every ally of the United States, that's nonsense. Yes, the US has had some very unsavory allies in the past, and still does, but just being a US ally does not make you unsavory.
Fourthly, just because American Fundamentalist Christians have begun supporting Israel for delusionary reasons is not the fault of Israelis and its not a reason not to like and support Israel. I do believe that the recent support of Israel by Christian Fundamentalists is part of a larger political ploy, dare I say "conspiracy" to get that block of easily manipulated people to support a military agenda and foreign policy of aggression in the Middle East. I completely agree with that and think that the manipulation of American fundamentalists is part of a large network of political movers who use religious leaders to do their bidding, but, again, I'm not going to blame Israel for the policies of the United States, even if there are Israeli leaders who are "coconspirators", because a handful of leaders doesn't represent a nation.
The idea, also, that just because Hamas was democratically elected it means that we should somehow support them and play nice with them is also absurd. Why do American leftists say that we should support Hamas because they were democratically elected, yet they don't support President Bush? Forget 2000, and forget the 2004 conspiracy theories, Bush was democratically elected. That doesn't make him right or good. Nor does it make Hama right or good. All it means is that a growing number of Palestinians are moving towards radicalism and fundamentalism and in support of terrorism. Democracy does not define morality.
Having said all that, lets look at reality. Israel has one of the most progressive cultures in the world, a great scientific community, liberal laws, and a relatively open society, much more open than the Islamic societies that surround them, and they would be even more open if they weren't under constant threat. The Israeli culture is a fine and good culture that has a lot in common with Western culture. Israel is by far the most liberal nation in the Middle East. Israel is indeed a largely leftist country, with a strong history of leftism and progressive political and social policy.
It makes no sense at all for American leftists to support right-wing neo-Nazi thugs, i.e. Hezbollah and Hamas, who are opposed to women's rights, gay rights, freedom of speech, secularism, etc. in opposition to Israel, which is a progressive country as much as it can be in the face of constant aggression. Israel has historically been one of the most leftist countries in the world, and still has one of the largest and most influential leftist political groups of any nation. The fact that the international left has abondoned Israel, and the American right is courting Israel is only hurting leftism in Israel, so when American leftists are in opposition to Israel all they do is make things worse.
I really think that many American so-called "leftists" (many of which are really just conspiracy theorists or disgruntled people who don't have any solid basis of political or ideological grounding) need to seriously reconsider their positions on the Middle East. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Yes, I am an enemy of American military aggression in the Middle East, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to support Islamic terrorists and people who literally espouse Nazi ideology and have it written into their charter (Hamas).
There are many extremely oppressive regimes in the Middle East today. Yes, to a large extent they are products of failed Western policy over the past 100 years, I agree, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to support them. Irainian leadership, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and many others, are seriously oppressive, religious fundamentalist groups. Just because, in some cases, they are "fighting for the poor", or they are fighting in opposition to US occupation, doesn't make them just people, and does make them right, and doesn't make them worthy of support. It seems that some people among the "American left" (and what a fractious bunch that is) haven't figured this out.