Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Israel and the Iraq war

I am ardently pro-Israel and I ardently opposed the invasion of Iraq. So what am I to make of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq last year, who has become an iconic figure in the anti-war movement?
She has been quoted as having said that her son "was killed for lies...to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel." After supporters of the war seized on the statement to accuse her of anti-Semitism, Sheehan denied that she had ever introduced the Israel issue into her campaign against the Iraq war.
She charged that she was being "smeared" because of her aggressive criticism of President Bush. Said Sheehan: "A former friend who is anti-Israel and wants to use the spotlight on me to push his anti-Semitism is telling everyone...that I believe Casey [her son] died for Israel...That is not my issue."
Whatever the truth is about Sheehan's view, the Israel-bashers, particularly those who are left-wing organizational leaders, have indeed cited Bush Administration support of Israel as a factor in the decision to invade Iraq. They've even made a game of "outing" high-level Jewish bureaucrats in the Pentagon who may have played important roles in the decision.
As a quasi-leftwinger myself, I have been offended--no, infuriated is a better word--by how left-wing spokesmen and the elders of the Presbyterian church and other supposedly moderate Protestant denominations have demonized Israel in recent years. These self-appointed, professional do-gooders, apparently ignorant of Middle East history, overlook the failure of the Palestinian Arabs to accept numerous opportunities for statehood while obsessively challenging the very right of Israel to exist as an independent country.
Actually, the Iraq war has been a mixed blessing for Israel. The elimination of Saddam Hussein, a perennial enemy, was of course a benefit. According to some Israeli strategists, however, the erosion of Iraq into a breeding ground and training center for Islamist terrorism has created scores of new enemies, many of whom are now more immediate threats to Israeli security than Saddam was.
Al-Qaida and new terrorist groups that it has inspired have infiltrated into Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and even the recently "liberated" Gaza Strip. Now geographically closer to Israeli territory and equipped with missiles within reach of airports and other critical facilities, they pose a new danger to the Jewish state. In short, the U.S. did Israel no favor by invading Iraq.

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