Lots Known, Little Said

What powerful force, of nature or man, keeps U.S. politicians from speaking truthfully about Israel?

Uh, Helen, what was the question again?

Uh, Helen, what was the question again?

In Barack Obama’s first press conference, that sly provocateur Helen Thomas asked if he would tell us what he knew about nuclear arms that already exist in the Middle East.

Well, no.  Mr. Hope and Change and Openness didn’t want to speculate.

Oh, really.

Come on, Barack, you’re a smart guy. You must have known the answer when you were in the Senate, and you certainly got the full briefing since November 4, right? Wily ol’ Helen surely knew too when she asked. In fact, everybody who wants to spend about ten seconds doing research on the web knows the answer. The only nuclear state in the Middle East is Israel. By most estimates, they have at least 70 warheads, maybe 200 or more.

And we've known a long time - this report came in 1986

And we've known a long time - this report came in 1986

So, for Barack to speak the truth about this would not have been giving away any state secrets. Maybe it would have been embarrassing to our good friend and ally? Or maybe some folks in and out of our government don’t want average Americans to hear much about the Israeli nukes – and certainly not from their president.

This post is a much-truncated version of what I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. I’ve held off out of deference to my Jewish friends and in-laws; my Jewish wife, however, says I shouldn’t hold back. Yet I do, because I know how easy it is to piss people off when you talk about U.S./Israeli relations. And how quickly some Jewish defenders of Israel will label you as an anti-Semite if you don’t say just the right thing, Case in point: this Trib op-ed piece of a few weeks ago, in which Tom Neumann says, “Over the years I’ve seldom found someone who is anti-Israel but at the same time likes Jews.” And “At their core, objections to Israel are not based on the country’s policies but instead rest on Israel’s very right to exist.”

Well, I don’t support most Israeli policies, but I don’t think I’m anti-Semitic. I’ve written too much about the Holocaust over the years, and the real anti-Semitism in this country, to be blind to what the Jewish people have suffered. But does that mean I should think Israel can do whatever it wants? That’s not even my real issue. Israel, like any nation engaging in realpolitik, does what it thinks is in its best interests. I accept that. But I do feel certain elements in the United States have made it hard for our leaders and the media to discuss what is in our best interest, vis-a-vis our relation with Israel. And I do have a problem with fundamentalists – Jewish and Christian, here and abroad – saying that God has ordained certain events to happen in the Middle East, and Israel has a claim to certain lands based on the Bible.

I could write a lot more. The reasons why the modern state of Israel was created (not having much to do with the Good Book), the Liberty incident, the idea that any historical peoples are guaranteed a modern nation (come on, let’s hear it out there for an Assyrian homeland! Maybe a Mayan homeland?), the spying, and perhaps other actions Israel pursues for its own gain at our expense that we don’t really know about. I could, but then I risk really raising the hackles of many, as well as my own. But as I have on lots of other issues here at C?WC? I make a simple plea: Let’s talk truthfully about things that matter. Let’s have open debates about what kind of  relationship the United States should have with Israel. Refusing to “speculate” about a known fact is not a good way to start.

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~ by mburgan on February 10, 2009.

2 Responses to “Lots Known, Little Said”

  1. Jon Stewart speaks up about US/Israeli relations all the time. He’s a Jew.

    I have no problems speaking up about the slaughter the Israeli Government inflicted on the Palestinian people a month ago.

  2. Yes, Jon Stewart is a notable exception, and there are people who speak out about Israeli “excesses”–but not too many people in politics or the media.

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