This seems a useful time to say a word about the American commitment to Israel -- which, if you listen to particular Americans, not to mention particular Europeans and Middle Easterners, makes us complicit in manifold deeds of evil and aggression like the ongoing battling in Lebanon and Gaza.
Evil? Aggression? Rubbish! That's the word I was looking for. Though other words of like import cue up for notice.
The American commitment to Israel, whatever reproach it excites from the excitable among us, is more than inevitable. It is just. It is right. Hooray for Israel. The day America turns its back on Israel, for reasons of expediency or just plain moral flaccidity, will be one of the worst days in our history. We should all pray -- Israelis and Americans, speaking to our common God -- that such a day never comes.
I think no American -- no non-Jewish American, perhaps -- is obliged to have a viewpoint regarding the Jewish aspiration for a Holy Land home. I think all we need do is acknowledge two truths about modern Israel:
1. It is Western-oriented and democratic. Real elections take place there. The rule of law exists. These are claims I doubt anyone would make concerning, say, Syria and Iran.
2. Israel is a firm and important ally of the United States -- even when, as sometimes happens with allies (as with spouses), we don't see eye to eye.
There is yet a third truth that could be called a corollary of the first two: Israel's Islamic enemies -- failures at nearly everything normal people are supposed to pursue for their betterment -- work and conspire to mash the Israelis into pulp. How about another Syria where now there is Israel? How about a Hamas stronghold in Tel Aviv? We could eventually have either scenario, or a fetching combination of both, by beginning now to talk, as do the Russians and French, about "disproportionate" responses to aggression.
A question that has not fully engaged the world is: What is a "proportionate" response to a war someone else started, as in the cases of Gaza and Lebanon? What were the Israelis doing when all this began -- these over-the-border assaults and kidnappings by terrorists, these rocket raids on Israeli cities and towns? The Israelis were trying to detach themselves from responsibility for these zones, as for portions of the long-disputed West Bank from which the government planned later withdrawal. That is to say, the Israelis weren't pushing forward territorially, they were drawing back, when Hamas and Hezbollah hit them hard.
Now precisely what are you supposed to do in such situations, invite your attackers over for tea and mediation? I think the conventional expectation is that you will strike back, by way of meting out just punishment for unprovoked aggression. Isn't that what you do with criminals? I'd hope so. I'd hope so to the point of working for the ouster of any establishment too cynical or too cowardly or too naive to come down firmly on the lawless.
The terrorists, then, are criminals? What else would you call murderers and mad bombers? The military dimension of Israel's -- and of our -- response to terrorist acts like the above need not obscure the profoundly criminal dimension of attempts to rub out your fellow man in the meanest, cruelest way.
We do well to keep in mind that the same people who hate Israel and work for its demise are the same criminals who hate the United States and wouldn't mind dropping a few hydrogen bombs on it if they knew where to get any -- though they're willing to settle for lesser measures like flying airplanes into skyscrapers.
In an age often unwilling to acknowledge the inherent superiority of one moral position over another, the Israelis inspire. They don't fall for all this modern nonsense or anything resembling it. They know an enemy when they see one. Would that the same might be said of us all.