Monday, April 17, 2006

James Taranto on the Suicide Bombing in Tel Aviv Today (CM)

A Great post from FDD a great opinion site that does not know how to promote itself.

"A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside a fast-food restaurant in a bustling area of Tel Aviv during the Passover holiday Monday, killing eight other people and wounding at least 49 in the deadliest Palestinian attack in more than a year," the Associated Press reports. This is in Tel Aviv, not the disputed territories:
The Palestinians' new Hamas leaders called the attack a legitimate response to Israeli "aggression." Israel said it held Hamas ultimately responsible--even though a different militant group, Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility--and would respond "as necessary." . . .
Witness Israel Yaakov said the blast killed a woman standing near her husband and children.
"The father was traumatized. He went into shock. He ran to the children to gather them up and the children were screaming, 'Mom! Mom!' and she wasn't answering, she was dead already . . . it's a shocking scene," Yaakov said.
Another witness, 62-year-old Sonya Levy, said she had just finished shopping when the blast occurred.
"I was about to get into my car, and boom! There was an explosion. A bit of human flesh landed on my car and I started to scream," she said.
Are you inclined to sympathize with Israel when you read about something like this? If so, leading scholars say you're wrong. According to a paper by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, "The Palestinian resort to terrorism is wrong but it isn't surprising. The Palestinians believe they have no other way to force Israeli concessions." Furthermore, there is no "compelling moral case for US backing" of Israel.
Last month we dissected the argument by which Mearsheimer and Walt purported to discredit Israel morally. Far from an evenhanded consideration of the facts on both sides of the issue, it turns out to be radically biased. Mearsheimer and Walt admit only evidence depicting the Jewish state as wicked, ignoring both mitigating factors and the evils committed by Israel's adversaries. This, we submitted, is an anti-Semitic argument, for it is constructed in such a way that Israel cannot win, even if the facts are on its side.
As far as we know, neither Mearsheimer nor Walt nor any of their supporters have offered any substantive defense of their moral condemnation of Israel. Our criticism of it appears to stand unrebutted. This is not to say there have not been efforts to defend Mearsheimer and Walt's work. As we noted Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an op-ed piece by Edward Peck, a former ambassador now affiliated with the California-based Independent Institute (not the Colorado-based Independence Institute), titled "Of Course There Is an Israel Lobby." On Friday David Theroux, head of the Independent Institute, emailed us a response to our item from Peck, which you can read in its entirety here.
Peck's latest response adds little to his Post-Gazette piece. He claims that our criticism, along with that of law professor David Bernstein, further demonstrates the truth of Mearsheimer and Walt's claim that there exists an "Israel Lobby." But this is an evasion. Mearsheimer and Walt's argument can be summarized as follows:
Premise: "Neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel."
Conclusion: "The explanation is the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby."
What is controversial about the Mearsheimer-Walt paper is the premise: that U.S. support for Israel is strategically and morally unjustified. Peck, however, pretends that the argument is something like this:
Premise: Many Americans are strong supporters of Israel.
Conclusion: The "Israel Lobby" exists.
Whether this conclusion follows from the premise is a question of semantics; one could dispute whether it makes sense to characterize a journalist who has never lobbied an elected official in his life (i.e., this columnist) as part of a "lobby." But for the sake of argument, let's accept the widest possible definition of the "Israel Lobby": all Americans who strongly support the Jewish state. By that definition, we certainly qualify--and proudly so.
But also by that definition, Peck's version of the Mearsheimer-Walt argument is a truism. In other words, rather than defend the argument they actually made, Peck has recast it as a trivial truth.
Peck claims in his response to us that "those with differing views [from those of the 'Israel Lobby'] encounter highly restricted opportunities to express them in the media"--this, in case you missed it, in a response we have published in full, here. He complains of a lack of "open public discussion," when in fact the Mearsheimer-Walt paper has prompted a great deal of discussion.
If that discussion has been one-sided, it is because Mearsheimer, Walt and their supporters--including Peck--have not, in the face of serious, substantive criticism, defended the claim that support for Israel is strategically and morally unjustified. In our estimation, this is because that claim is indefensible.

Read Taranto (interesting on many issues) on Opinion Journal.

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