Wednesday, September 23, 2009

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

One of the seemingly few bright spots for the GOP in an otherwise dismal 2008 election cycle was the ascent of Virginia Representative Eric Cantor to the position of Minority Whip. While many state voters cast their ballots for a Democratic Presidential nominee for the first time ever, several ballots included votes for both Barack Obama and Cantor. What was on the minds of voters, as reported at the time, was that Cantor was something of a tolerable moderate. Ever since then, however, Cantor has taken his position as the second ranking Republican House member and used it for predominately obstructionist ends. As this article states, if anyone ought to claim the title of Dr. No, Cantor should.

What has always concerned me about the supposedly cozy relationship that the United States has with Israel is how the right-wing deifies this most atypical of all Middle East nations. According to conservative rhetoric, Israel can do no wrong and as such must be protected as some kind of sainted child from the scourge of terrorism and Arab aggression. In their way of thinking, Israel is a buffer zone against hostile regimes and a virtuous champion of "our" values. As such, it must always stay strong to contain and repulse potential threats. Yet, it would go against logic and reason to assume that any country is perfect. Each and every nation makes significant mistakes and lest someone with selective reading skills miss the point, my stating this does not make me somehow Anti-Israel, Pro-Terrorist, or Anti-Semitic.

When you marry this fawning Pro-Israel talk with Evangelical Christianity, then the effect produced is truly frightening. Most Evangelicals believe Israel to be the Holiest of Holy sites. In their way of thinking, this tiny country is the precise location where the inevitable will come true and the long-promised war between God and Satan, Good and Evil will transpire. Though much about the Christian Right frightens me, the power and potential exploitation of self-fulfilling prophecy fills me full of dread the most. But even so, Evangelical Christianity and Judaism are a union of convenience, much like the one that exists between the United States and Israel, rather than a pairing based on shared purpose. Many Evangelicals hold a particular reverence for Jews, but also believe it is their stated agenda to convert them to Christianity. Though both religions utilize the same scriptural teachings, the interpretation and emphasis of the same words and concepts is vastly divergent.

The latest Eric Cantor soundbyte, which must have been constructed with the clear design to inflame and to invoke response deserves a response. Though I diligently try to ignore those clearly aiming to start a political controversy and/or a resulting war of words, I simply couldn't stay silent on this matter. Too much hypocrisy and irony exists within it to not raise my voice in protest. Observe.[ed] his opposition to Obama’s “disproportionate focus” on halting the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank instead of adopting a policy geared toward eliminating the “existential threat” posed to Israel by Iran’s nuclear program.

“If you look at the policy that this White House has followed, it certainly does not seem as if we are dealing with a true friend” of Israel, Cantor said.

What constitutes "a true friend of Israel" is a matter for debate and one, particularly in this context, notably not set by the Jewish nation itself. Instead, it frequently finds use as a political talking point, designed to criticize and shame those possessed of a point of view in opposition to the whims of whomever is making it. I would question whether, strictly speaking, Cantor is a "true friend of Israel". Few conservatives in this country are willing to note that if the label "socialist" could be pinned to any nation, Israel might well have a strong claim to the distinction. State-owned businesses and industries have existed within the borders of the Jewish state ever since its founding in 1948. While in times past many Israelis more heavily favored a socialistic system and many still do today, the nation is nonetheless highly dependent on U.S. assistance, whether it be in the form of military or economic aid. This has created a conflict. The unenviable position between playing by Washington's rules or governing their country by the ways they themselves would prefer is not an easy one. That, in and of itself is not a particularly uncommon response. Since we have the biggest guns and, until recently, had the strongest economy, the countries we actively assisted always had to modify their own political leanings against Washington's hard line and heavily conditional purse strings.

Furthermore, Israel's system of government is based heavily on the European Parliamentary model, containing a wide variety of disparate political parties, instead of the predominant bicameral system we use. It is, in effect, a European state transplanted to a region that has never known anything resembling Democracy, and the fact that tensions and aggressions would exist between it and its neighbors does not take a rocket scientist to explain, nor to understand. Some assume that other Arab states strongly dislike Israel for purely petty, superficial reasons, but the truth is that it is such an bizarre anomaly in comparison with the rest of the region, that a mutual degree of distrust and fear which exists ought to be obvious.

Cantor has, true to party line, recently spoken out against health care reform. If he were a true friend of Israel, as he implies that he is, he would take into account this reality.

Simcha Shapiro calls Israel's health care system "socialized medicine with a privatized option".

Israel has maintained a system of socialized health care since its establishment in 1948,[citation needed] although the National Health Insurance law was passed only on January 1, 1995. The state is responsible for providing health services to all residents of the country, who can register with one of the four health service funds. To be eligible, a citizen must pay a health insurance tax. Coverage includes medical diagnosis and treatment, preventive medicine, hospitalization (general, maternity, psychiatric and chronic), surgery and transplants, preventive dental care for children, first aid and transportation to a hospital or clinic, medical services at the workplace, treatment for drug abuse and alcoholism, medical equipment and appliances, obstetrics and fertility treatment, medication, treatment of chronic diseases and paramedical services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy

To the Obama Administration's credit, they have fired back with a response to Cantor's charge.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to respond to Cantor’s comments but said that securing a lasting two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was “how you can be a true friend to Israel.”

The lessons to be drawn from this are many. As we have done many times before, this country likes to project its own agenda and its own internal political squabbles onto whichever country happens to be the current topic for debate. The irony here, among many, is that other nations, believe it or not, have their own strong opinions, their own distinct political persuasions, and their own means of conducting business. I suppose it would be inevitable that any country as large and influential as we are would project its own narcissism onto countries not nearly as fortunate and privileged as we are. I have frequently made a point to ask people who live in other countries what honestly bothers them about the United States. The number one gripe, regardless of national allegiance, is that it seems as though we really believe that the world revolves around America and, not only that, in so stating this we assume every other nation ought to acknowledge our importance and dominance, too. It's one thing to be a superpower and have that status influence the discourse of other countries. It's quite another thing altogether, however, when we assume if not altogether demand that other countries ought to make our concerns their concerns as well. This situation proves to be another unfortunate example of a behavior we would do well to discard.

1 comment:

Stephen Kriz said...

It is Israel that has violated the terms of the NPT and continues to build and stockpile nuclear weapons. Israel is a rogue state that needs to be cut off from all U.S. aid, blockaded and forced to de-nuclearize, if this world is to survive.