Israel has never been so isolated, said Peter Beinart in TheDailyBeast.com, and it has only itself to blame. Actually, the Israelis can also blame their uncritical American cheerleaders, for helping pump up Israel with the sort of self-justifying “hubris” that led to its disastrous raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last week in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed. I recently took heat for an essay in which I argued that we younger American Jews no longer believe that Israel “can do no wrong,” and that Americans do Israel no favors by tolerating its increasing belligerence toward the Palestinians. Now much of the world is aligned against Israel, and calling for the end of the dehumanizing blockade around Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Sadly, the American Jewish establishment will hear none of it, blaming criticism of the commando raid on an “anti-Israeli lynch mob.” Israel’s hard-core supporters tend to dismiss all criticism as “unfair and anti-Semitic,” said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. But even many Israelis believe the flotilla raid was a grievous self-inflicted wound, exposing the Gaza blockade for the humanitarian disaster it is.
Israel “has nothing to apologize for,” said William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. The purpose of the flotilla was to break the blockade, so that Hamas could rearm itself. Hamas, which runs Gaza, is openly “committed to the killing of Israelis and the destruction of the state of Israel.” Apparently, much of the world does not find that threat particularly troubling, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. After Israel evacuated Gaza under international pressure in 2005, Hamas showed its appreciation by raining 4,000 rockets down on Israeli homes and schools. So in 2008, Israel launched an invasion to defang the “terrorist mini-state”—triggering more condemnation. Now, the blockade is headed for “international delegitimation.” So where does that leave Israel? With no means of self-defense. “The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million—that number again—hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide.”
That paranoid “mind-set” is what’s turning Israel into a global pariah, said Andrew Sullivan in TheAtlantic.com. Gaza is now a crowded, impoverished hellhole, with mass unemployment and widespread hunger. To see that as a “horrible, categorical wrong” does not make one an anti-Semite. For many Jews, though, “persecution is the default and permanent position, even when they exercise overwhelming strength, as they do in Israel.” Yet in recent years, said Sandy Tolan in Salon.com, Israel has abused that strength, to its own detriment. Its 2006 war in Lebanon, aimed at crushing Hezbollah, displaced a million people and “only made Hezbollah stronger.” In Gaza, neither its 2008 assault nor the subsequent blockade has undermined Hamas—but they have increased Israel’s “international isolation.”
Which pretty much leaves the United States as “Israel’s only friend,” said Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. President Obama has been muted in his reaction to the flotilla tragedy, despite his recent collision of wills with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over West Bank settlements. Obama hopes that by holding back on public criticism this time, he will give Netanyahu the room to relax the Gaza blockade. After that, the goal is to convince Netanyahu that it’s in Israel’s best interest to be more flexible on such issues as future borders and the status of Jerusalem. It just might work. After its “botched” commando operation, “Israel needs allies—in this case, an ally—more than ever.”