James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, May 09, 2008

Who Cares About Israel?

The other day I heard a caller on a public radio show rant against Arabs, how racist and dangerous Arabs are, that any clear-thinking people would love to have Jews in their country, how Jewish settlers in Gaza helped the economy tremendously before they were pulled out, and how too many Americans are too trusting of Arabs and don't see these issues clearly.

But why should I, as an American, give a damn one way or another? Yes, there is that $3 billion in foreign aid given to Israel every year, which allows Israel's enemies to blame America for Israel's actions. This in turn creates diplomatic headaches and the threat of terrorist attacks that probably cost Americans closer to $300 billion/year in Defense, Homeland Security, and opportunity costs. And this leaves out the possibility that America made war on Iraq and is threatening war with Iran in large part because those countries don't acknowledge Israel's right to exist. But all of this only goes to show that foreign aid to Israel is bad policy. To cut it off does not mean we are taking the side of Arabs. There is such a thing as neutrality.

If a similar dispute existed in Africa involving the same size of territory and number of people, we would probably ignore it entirely and call it "tribal" warfare - perhaps blaming it on the artificial boundaries created by European imperialists. A similar dispute in Southern or East Asia also would only barely get our attention. To the extent we are interested in the Balkans or meddle in the affairs of ex-Soviet Republics, we do so only to humiliate Russia. The U.S. may be more interested if something like it existed in the Americas - only because of our historically paternalistic attitude toward our neighbors - but even then it wouldn't consume nearly as much of our time and attention as does Israel, which is the size of Massachusetts.

Of course, every conflict is unfortunate. Human suffering, particularly war-related suffering is tragic anywhere. But human suffering outside of the U.S., and not caused by the U.S., is not the U.S.'s problem.

Some would try to persuade me that it's "obvious" that Israel is in the right, or that it's "obvious" that the Palestinians are victims of Israeli aggression, and that it's my "duty" to "see this clearly." But why should I even bother to study this, or form an opinion at all, when I don't bother to do so with most other national and ethnic strife in the world? This conflict is several hundred miles away from oil fields. The region may be of interest to some religious people, but they can donate money to the Israeli government on their own if they so choose. There is simply no vital U.S. interest on the east coast of the Mediterranean.

Why should I mourn the death of an Israeli more than anybody else? Because of his religion? Because he lives in a democracy? Because of his skin color? These are all very bad reasons. The Israeli is no more entitled to American protection, aid, or sympathy than any other person on the planet. No more than a Somalian or Albanian. Or Palestinian.

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