quarta-feira, novembro 21, 2012

Gaza and America

Gaza and America:
We often hear that we should defend Israel because it is a liberal democracy, at least compared to the Muslim theocracies nearby. But that shouldn’t temper our critique of the government’s policies in the occupied territories. Liberal states have often been guilty of some of the greatest crimes in foreign policy. On the eve of the American Revolution, one of the central colonial criticisms of the British Empire was that it acted hypocritically, championing human rights at home while treating foreigners with a much lower moral standard.

This is true of U.S. foreign policy in general. Americans like to believe their government defends something akin to the relative liberty we associate with America at home. Yet U.S. foreign policy has often conspicuously stood in sharp contrast with the values espoused at home. It has been characterized by firebombings, torture, massacres of villagers, and alliances with some of the most brutal states in modern history. Often, the victims’ humanity is dismissed in mainstream political discourse as if their lives don’t matter as much as our lives do.

The collectivism of war is one of the most wicked forms of tribalism in our time. Most Americans recognize that Muslim terrorists are guilty of regarding innocent people as a disposable means to an end. But they are not alone. U.S. and Israeli leaders do this too. The United States deliberately killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians through sanctions in the 1990s. Today, Israeli politicians and important public figures use crazed language calling on the government to “flatten Gaza” or “send it back to the Middle Ages.”

I’m not saying there is a simple solution for the Middle East. But it should be obvious that just as Hamas’s rocket attacks are an immoral and ineffective way to defend the Palestinians, Israel’s provocations and reactions, which tend to kills dozens of times as many people, are also immoral and counterproductive. Whether the goal is seen as self-defense or to maintain an illegitimate occupation, the Israeli government has committed human rights abuses that in practice do not serve to defend anybody. The U.S. government should not force taxpayers to finance any of this, and so long as it does, Americans ought to be particularly critical.

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