I don't write about the Middle East much because its a big muddle that requires a lot more knowledge than I have to comment on seriously.

I will say this about Israel, though:  I too would love to see better civil rights performance at times (just as I would like to see better performance from our own damn country) but it's interesting to hypothesize what the US would do in similar circumstances.  After watching our post-9/11 Constitutional rollback, I wonder what other extreme steps we would be taking if, say, Mexican rockets routinely landed in San Diego or Nogales or El Paso.  One does not have to go too far out on a limb to call the Israeli response "restrained," at least in comparison to what the US would do in parallel circumstances.  Not to mention our reaction if a major foreign leader came to our country and urged us to give back the Gadsden Purchase as a solution.


  1. Dan:

    Very good post.

    I always wonder why Israel is held to higher standards than any other country. It could have to do with the fact that Israel receives a lot of U.S. aid, so we expect it to act right, but that's also the case for Egypt and Saudi Arabia and neither of them are the whipping boy for the far left, even when Saudi Arabia tries to execute rape victims. No, I sense a current of anti-semitism on the fringes of the left wing, and that may account for Israel coming under their verbal fire despite it being the only democracy in the region (until recently Israel was the only country in the Middle East to have prosecuted and jailed soldiers and policemen for killing innocent Arabs).

    I've seen left-wing columnists comparing the recent "climbing over the border" protests to the non-violent protests of Martin Luther King. Balderdash! MLK and his people didn't climb over barbed wire fences into other peoples' property when they protested. There's nothing peaceful or benign about hundreds of angry young men from a hostile country climbing over your border fence, especially when you're a country with a history of suffering fatal terror attacks against women and children instigated by the same sort of young men.

    I got into an argument online with a liberal Facebook friend of mine about Israel yesterday. Although she's Jewish, like me, she basically thinks Israel has no right to exist, that the Jews stole all the land from the Arabs, terrorized them, and should give it back. No mention of the terrorist acts committed by Arabs against Jews or of the Jews thrown out of Arab countries in 1948. Or any acknowledgement that Jews have lived in what is now Israel uninterrupted for about 5,000 years. Or that there are 21 Arab countries in the region and one sliver of a country that Jews can call their own.

    Not sure how the Palestinians became the cause celebre for the far left, but it's a sad development. I agree they should be given a state, and they've suffered, and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are unauthorized, but until Palestinian leaders get serious about recognizing Israel and denouncing terrorism, why should Israel negotiate?

    I guess it's obvious where my sympathies lie.

  2. ColoComment:

    Bibi explained the Israeli position today to our President in words of one syllable that even he could understand. And Obama didn't like it very much: Check out the Obama body language in the video.

  3. DrTorch:

    Yeah, what would the US do if throngs came spilling over the US southern border, w/ the express intent of shaping and ruling the country their way?


    How about that, we have a libertarian leader after all.

  4. EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy:

    A better parallel than the Gadsden Purchase might be those bits of Mexico that we annexed by force (old joke: all the parts with plumbing). Thought that is still not bang on, as the president is not suggesting giving back the bits the Israelis got in their initial war of conquest, but rather the bits they got in '67 when they were the aggrieved party (more or less).

    And, now I will shut up as you're absolutely right about it all being a big muddle.

  5. A Friend:

    EscaptedWestOfTheBigMuddy: to clarify the big muddle a bit, the Israelis didn't have an initial war of conquest, unless it was in biblical times. The land where Israel is has archeological evidence of Jewish rule thousands of years ago. There was a really big Jewish temple there, for example, with the remaining bit called the wailing wall. The land was subsequently conquered and occupied by Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusader forces, Islamic forces, Ottomans, and finally the Allies in WWI. The last war of conquest for the land was won by a British General named Edmund "Bloody Bull" Allenby, fighting the Ottoman Turks.

    Jews from Europe had been buying land there since the 1800s, joining a small population of remaining local Jews, and by the British victory in WWI Jews were a majority in the central area. They bought the land mostly from absentee landowners in Turkey and Egypt. The Jewish immigration and land purchases stepped up after the British victory as, among other things, the outlook for Jews in Europe, particularly in Germany, Poland and Russia, grew worse between WWI and WWII.

    The Arabs dwelling there started rioting under British rule as well as attacking the Jews beginning in the 1920s, and the British eventually wanted to pull out as the Jews started rebelling against British rule too, so after WWII they asked the UN to take over. The UN proposed a partition plan, the Jews said OK, but the Arab countries attacked them, and the Jews held them off. Not really a war of conquest; they were defending themselves and land they bought. They were later attacked in 1967, as you mentioned, but pushed the Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, etc. armies back behind the original 1948 lines. Oddly, all the territory the Israelis have now that was gained militarily from the Egyptians and the Jordanians in that war, the Egyptians and the Jordanians DO NOT want back. So there is no giving back land to the country that used to have it in this case, like Gadsden or Louisiana. The equivalent of Mexico and France don't want it back.

    So, it's a weird set-up with no good analogy. I think it would be kind of like Indians attacking Massachusetts with rockets, except the founding fathers would have been descended from other, different Indians that were there before the newer Indians attacking Massachusetts.

    I give up, you're right, it's a big muddle.

  6. chuck martel:

    Israel-Palestine is the foreign relations equivalent of the domestic abortion conundrum, an existential problem that has no clear-cut solution and is a continuing distraction that politicians and pundits address when they have no answer to other complicated issues. The fate of the so-called “Palestinians”, who are simply Arabs, in reality means nothing to anyone in the rest of the world. They are useful to political players in the Middle East and elsewhere as pawns in the battles for power in their own tyrannies and as a source of income cajoled from the more civilized but credulous guilt-ridden “democracies” of the west. Large portions of the world’s population live in political and economic conditions that make that of the Levantine Arabs look positively plush. But they have failed to attract daily television newscasts. The hapless residents of most of sub-Saharan Africa and huge portions of Asia unfortunately are not media stars, since they are repressed by non-Jews and their real estate is stolen by thieves of similar ethnicity.

    An astute US president would tell the world that the country has bigger fish to fry and that if the Israelis and Arabs can’t settle their own dispute perhaps Britain or maybe even some enlightened nation like Iceland can broker a deal. But that won’t happen because no party, even the US, wants the distraction to end.

  7. Dan Hill:

    It's useful to ask how the US would react in Israel's situation. It's also useful to ask how Americans would react in the Palestinians situation. Imagine that Rhode Islanders for some reason had now military power at their disposal and that some very well armed Native Americans turned up to drive them out saying this land belonged to our ancestors and we're taking it back. Do you think Rhode Islanders would just roll over? Or do you think they would respond violently with whatever means are at there disposal?

    Putting ourselves in the shoes of both sides tells us that neither is completely right and neither is completely wrong and therefore we shouldn't be backing one side over the other but rather telling both sides that there needs to be a solution based on compromise. I think that's what Obama has done. The only other equitable alternative is a one state solution. How would Israel respond if tomorrow the Palestinians said "We give up. You win. The West Bank is part of Israel. By the way, when do we get to vote?" If that is not what Israelis want then it's in their own interests to find a better solution that the Palestinians can live with. For those not interested in an equitable solution I suppose a little ethnic cleansing would solve the problem. Because it's not like Palestinians are entitled to the same human rights as Israelis.

  8. Chrispy:

    Or how about if we gave a up a certain chunk of the US to be a new Muslim homeland? It's not exactly analagous to WWII since it's not official US policy to exterminate muslims worldwide, but it's hard to argue with the results of 100,000+ dead innocent muslims in the past 10 years.

    If we made Florida, for example, a new refuge for persecuted Muslims to move to, I'd bet there would be a lot of pretty angry Floridians out there. Lets even say you don't have to convert to live there, you just have to be subject to sharia law and a government made up entirely of muslims. I don't condone violence, but I'd understand why people would be angry with the new government, and why Georgians and Alabamans would be tempted to use violence.

  9. Mark:


    What if the Muslims decided to move to Florida on their own, and had purchased most of the property there and ran most of the industry? And then the United States declared it a land for persecuted Muslims where they could move from the other 49 (or 56, 59) states.

    That would be more analogous to what happened in Israel. It was already Jewish before it was officially declared so in 1948.

  10. marco73:

    When previous commenters started mentioning making Florida a haven for persecuted muslims, please understand that Florida has been a haven for runaways and troublemakers for most of its history. Sharia law? Don't make us laugh. Try "driving while minority" in some of the more, uh, pale rural counties.

  11. gadfly:

    I find your comment about Mexicans lobbing rockets across the the border into San Diego, et al rather strange. After all, you are the Libertarian who finds no fault with foreign hordes entering our country daily without permission -- even if illegal. I think you pointed out that these foreigners only seek work and as a nation, we should not interfere.

    From the standpoint of the Gadsden Purchase, we paid the Mexican government for land that we had already taken by force in 1848. Santa Anna squandered the money away without reimbursing any Mexican land owners, if they existed. If there was no private ownership, it is uncertain whether Mexico really owned the land in the first place. None of this mattered to the private Railroad lobby in the U.S., which wanted the land in the worst way - to profit from our government's largess. Balzac pointed out that "behind every great fortune lies a great crime" and 19th century Railroad barons certainly ascribed to that philosophy.

    Gadsden had a ill-gotten profit motive and the middle east controversy is driven by religious zealots. Hell, I would think that today's Mexican infiltration would take on the rocket launching of the infiltrators themselves if it was at all possible and even "just a little bit" safe.

  12. JoshK:

    This is just more of the same left-wing ideology that is driving the current Prez. The West is at fault and if not for colonializim, capitalisim, science based medicine, factory farming, we wouldn't have global warming, human rights abuses, starvation, military conflicts.

    Uribe bad - Chavez Good
    before Glasnost it ws USSR good, Reagan bad
    Arab "liberation movements" good - Israel western colonialist imperialism bad
    corporations bad - teachers unions good
    low-productivity farming good - factory farming bad
    conservative Christians wanting some measure of school curriculum control in the US bad (fannatic fundamentalits) - Islamic republic of Iran good.

    The '67 borders are just where Israel was able to stop the invading Arab armies. There's nothing historic about them and they leave the country 9 miles wide at the narrowest. The Arab world is massive in size and has plenty of space to accomodate the arabs who wish to reside in the middle of Israel. But the dictatorships of the region need a cause to nurse to keep the pressure off of their own domestic situations.

  13. A Friend:

    There are some really thoughtful posts here, which is one reason I like Coyoteblog. I've been racking my brain for an analogy that fits. I think perhaps it's Puerto Rico. There are the same number of people there as the Palestinian areas, about four million, they are politically dis-empowered with limited rights, and the ruling entity neither wants to separate them or absorb them. Some of them want independence, some don't, and they are culturally and linguistically different than the ruling entity. Also, some Puerto Ricans used to be terrorists. If the Puerto Ricans were funded by Europe and elected an entire terrorist government sworn to the destruction of the US, and launched attacks on Washington with rockets into schools paid for from aid money transferred to Iran, that would be pretty much what's happening in Israel. I don't think we would tolerate it. Although, and I can see it from my old house, Alcatraz was seized by Indians in 1969 and we let them have it.

  14. Dan:


    Good post. I agree with most of what you said. However, I think it's a stretch to say U.S. left wingers ever expressed support for the Islamic Republic of Iran. I can't think of any examples. And as for the conservative Christians who want prayer to Jesus in public schools, it's hard to see anyone who treasures religious freedom supporting that, right wing or left wing.

  15. JoshK:

    Dan, Ty. Remember that our president publicly declared support for "The Islamic Republic of Iran" while people were rioting in the street after the last election there went awry.

    I agree with you that supporters of religious freedom don't support public prayer, but just am trying to compare the opprobrium directed at US Evangelicals compared to the relative support of repressive middle eastern regimes.

    I think it's similar to what Coyote points out w/the single minded focus on Global Warming while ignoring other, less fashionable environmental issues. You can see this incredibly intense and hate-filled criticism of Israel while no one batted an eyelash at the UN Human Rights commission being composed of some of the worst offenders of humans rights.

    It always comes back into that same leftist meme that the west is the source of all that is wrong with the world. If it wasn't for the technology, consumption, and anti-collectiveness of the west we would be living in a state before man's downfall from eden where we sit in our socially egalitarian tribal villages and just reach up to pluck a fruit from any nearby tree. In our carefully managed, low population growth, central managed societies we would all be equal and there would be no more wars any more... Sheep and lions and all that.

  16. caseyboy:

    Does it strike anyone as odd that neither Jordan or Syria have offered to contribute land to a new Palestinian state?

    There is no peace formula that can succeed because there is a large element on the Arab side that wants Israel to disappear and I don't think Israel will agree to that. Now that America has apparently sided with the Palestinians they will be emboldened to demand more than Israel can give. How can Israel trust a peace agreement made with a people that would gladly eliminate them from the face of the earth. As it is the peace agreement signed with Egypt will likely be revoked when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over there.

    I'm afraid that we are in for another armed conflict and this time the Arabs have sufficient arms to win a conventional war. And since a loss to the Arabs could result in another holocaust Israel will resort to nuclear weapons. That is when things will get interesting. Will Pakistan standby with their arsenal? Can a nuclear war be contained? Could be that the California Pastor was a little premature on his apocalypse prediction.

    Aren't you glad we have the "boy wonder" as president during these interesting times?

  17. JoshK:

    Imho there is a fine balance in the middle east. The Arab regimes need a focal point for their people's anger. Syria has kept a military clamp-down on the country for 2 generations of dictators now. The justification for that is the state of war with Israel.

    They need an external enemy - an infidel. These countries not just have little political freedom, they have little economic freedom as well. Just like the US left needs the Koch brothers or fear of the "unfettered free market", they need an easy scare as well.

    IMHO, deep in their hearts, these dictators know they would need a good replacement if Israel were to disappear. There are other candidates, the Copts, the Maronite Christians in Lebanon, but it would be a paradigm shift. A good, hated enemy is safe for these guys.

  18. Old Soldier:

    There is no American precedence that compares. The Latino people who legally or illegally came here generally share our values (most are Roman Catholic). Within a couple of generations, they are Americans with better tans.

    The Muslims who want to overrun Israel (and the rest of the world) share nothing in common with western civilization and refuse to assimilate.

    I’m surprised that Israel never just drained the swamp – by kicking everyone out of the West Bank and making Egypt and Jordan accept them at gunpoint. Gaza used to be part of Jordan – they could have made them re-annex it in ’67 or ’73 after giving them a thorough thrashing.

    Read “Caliphate” by Tom Krautman if you want to speculate on how bad it will get eventually.

  19. Dan:


    I did a news search and can't find any reference to Obama expressing support for the current government of Iran. I'm a big supporter of Israel, and believe me, it would have been quite a revelation if I'd heard a U.S. president expressing support for Israel's worst enemy.

    At most, as far as Iran is concerned, Obama could be criticized for not offering stronger verbal support to the Iranaian protesters. But in all respects, he's continued the Bush admin policies of sanctions against the Islamic Republic and of working to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. He's criticized the Iranian government for its support of groups like Hezbollah.

    It's true he has said he'd like the U.S. and Iran to have a better relationship and mentioned in his campaign that he'd like the two countries to get back on speaking terms. But if you're going to criticize him for trying to reach out to our enemies, then I'd like to hear the same criticism for Nixon's visit to China or Reagan's negotiations with the USSR.