In the last week I've heard a number of people ask why bloggers, or I guess spefically progressive bloggers, have devoted so little column space to the events in Israel-Palestine and Lebanon. And I've joked, as I've ventured onto this terrain, about how nothing is more likely to heighten the temperature of your in box like stating any opinions on this vexed subject.
But none of these lighthearted words can do justice to the sorts of email you get.
It's funny, if that's the word for it, because I'm much more accustomed to getting critical emails from hypernationalist and/or hypersensitive Jews taking me to task over this or that viewpoint I've expressed about the Middle East. (Of course, nothing compares to sublime ridiculousness of having a gentile right-winger warn me that my views on the Middle East verge on anti-semitism. For some, it seems, Bush-loyalty is the new sign of the covenant.) Just a week ago I was foolish enough to exchange a series of emails with a reader who was offended that I hadn't booted my guest blogger TPM Reader DK for having the temerity to print an email hostile to Israel as an example of the range of opinions he'd received on the subject.
For some of my Jewish friends and, it seems, more and more non-Jews of a certain political persuasion, there is just an inability to recognize that the dispossession of Arabs was an essential element to the fulfillment of the Jewish people's national aspirations in Palestine. (That was a blindness that a ben Gurion or a Dayan never made. Read their writings, their speeches, especially their letters. They understood this.) There is too often an inability or I suppose simply a willfull refusal to recognize the roots of Palestinian militant violence and terrorism (and I don't equate the two) in the fact that the population of the West Bank and Gaza have been living under military occupation for some forty years.
As some of you know, before I became a journalist I was studying to be an historian. And the topic of my doctoral dissertation was the nexus of economic relations and organized violence between Indians and English settlers in mid-17th century New England. And over several years as I researched and wrote and pulled together my ideas on the subject there were troubling and disconcerting moments because I could see the echoes and patterns of what happened there in the 17th Century in what happened between Jews and Palestinians in the 20th. There continues to be this dangerous obtuseness among the political classes in this country that 'terrorism' is just terrorism whether it's bin Laden's buddies trying to figure out how to blow up the world or Palestinian militants trying to drive settlers off the West Bank.
But on a day like today I see a different picture, though magified perhaps by the febrile intensity of email. It comes when I'm again exposed to the other side of the coin. American politics leans heavily in Israel's direction; and so does the American media. But there is out there a broad constituency of ignorant and malevolent hatred of Israel and, really, Israelis, that, I think, masks its malevolence even to itself through being awash its own self-righteousness. I think I understand the Palestinians' rage. In any case, I respect it. For this trash from Americans who only seem able to see Jewish evil in the midst of this protracted conflict I can't have anything but contempt. And it puts me on my guard.