Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"We cannot achieve peace when one side refuses to acknowledge the other's existence."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to the US Congress

Oh, how wonderful it is to hear these words. Perhaps the Israeli-American juggernaut is truly practicing self-reflection, and looking back on their foreign policy! Olmert was, of course, referring to the stance of the Palestinians and their democratically-elected political party - the Hamas.

And, thus, we have one of the greatest tools of the current administration. Using the God-rhetoric to please the religious right, the Bush team (and the Israelis right along with them) has consistently pointed out - with an amount of precision, admittedly - the speck in the eyes of many other governments, while simply ignoring the massive log in their own.

Israel complaining about the unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to recognize them is like a professor accusing a student of forcing the professor have sex with him/her: No matter how you slice it, it's rape. The power differential makes all the difference in the world. So, too, is the undeniably absurd claim that Israel needn't make any concessions to Palestine simply because they will not "accept" Israel.

NEWS FLASH: Israel exists, Palestine doesn't. Stop bitching, Israel. I thought you were supposed to be the big, bad, tough bully that has the ultimate older brother: The United States of America.

Yet you seem to be threatened by these people whom you are occupying. Hmm...that's odd. You point the finger at them (more correctly, Hamas), and say, "But...but...but you don't recognize us!" What is a Palestinian supposed to say to that? Nothing needs to be said. The absolute stupidity of such a statement coming from an occupying force - directed towards the victims of its occupation - makes the point vividly enough.

Now, some people may feel that my previous characterization of Israel - that of a self-conscious bully - is downright unfair. But I am simply using the frame given to us in this 21st century of world politics (and expounded upon beautifully by George Lakoff in his book, Don't Think of an Elephant!) Nation-states are not vast, complex communities of peoples, leaders, and everything in-between. They are, in the eyes of our government, singular and rational beings. Now, in this frame, you are either - as Bush so eloquently put - "with us or against us." No grey areas of policies and their effect on the ground level exist in this over-simplified approach. We are left with the lovely black-and-white language of the GOP:

Nations are either good (i.e. "developed", unless they are just plain mean, like China), or they are bad (you know these fuckers - Iran, Iraq, etc...). We are assuming nations are 'adults', but many aren't, and so don't fit into this nice little model. A vast majority are 'children' (aka "developing" nations - many are located in Asia and Africa), and thus need 'supervision' and a few spankings every now and then. Enter the World Bank and others that lend money only with the assurance that the country receiving it will use it, not as the country itself wishes (because they are just children!), but as the money-lenders decide.

This characterization isn't an exaggeration. Look at Iraq War II. Nobody from Iraq was involved in 9/11. But that hardly matters. Saddam was an evil person, and thus Iraq was guilty by association. This 'bad boy' club, in the months following 9/11, included Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iraq (the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, which wasn't even mentioned). Few ties exist between them, but they were - in the eyes of the frame - all part of the sinister hoodlum group that exists in the alleyways and the streets and wreaks havoc on the other, well-meaning people. Thus, perpetual wars were born. Even now, North Korea and Iran are not allowed to have nuclear weapons because they are 'bad'. We are good, so we're good to go.

Iran calls for Israel's destruction. We rally to Israel's defense. Israel, implicitly and subtly, calls for Palestine's destruction - in their policies, border checks, and fences. We back them up in the street and refuse to hear the other side.

Why do we do this? Because Israel's our friend. And DAMN YOU if you challenge our friend.

Now, is it more complicated than this brief sketch? Absolutely. Is Iran dangerous with nukes? Could be. Was Saddam a bad man? No doubts there.

But that's the point. The Bush administration (and their "friends") blind their eyes to the complexities and embrace the simplicity. Our friends will be taken care of, and our bullies will get what's coming to them. They will be "smoked out of their holes." Iran will (eventually) be bombed because of the fact that they "harbor terrorists." Do innocent Iranians figure into this? Of course not. That's too "complex." Would a diplomatic course work better? What's the point? asks our administration.

They are evil people. They don't reason.

Oh, if only countries were so simple. Then maybe people could continue to denounce the 'Great Satan' and dismiss the average, compassionate, and decent American. But, around the world, people are distinguishing between the mass of people and their singular government.

If only Bush and Co. could do the same. But that would be way too complex an idea to consider.


At 12:24 PM , Blogger Meow said...

whoa.... everyone's changing their format... My mind is boggled.


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