Monday, October 9, 2023

Israel and Ukraine and political correctness

The situation in Israel is horrible. As Steve Berman described over the weekend, early Saturday morning, Hamas terrorists launched an abrupt and unanticipated attack on southern Israel. The attack consisted of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli cities and Hamas fighters streaming across the border from Gaza to attack settlements, some in ultralight aircraft. At least 700 Israelis are reported dead and others have been taken hostage. Among the dead are young revelers at a dance party where 260 bodies were found. There are reports of both military personnel and civilians being beheaded by Hamas fighters. In Gaza, at least 300 people have been killed in retaliatory strikes.

The Middle East has been quiet in recent years. The attack seems to have taken Israel and the rest of the world by surprise. The last time Israel’s enemies achieved such complete surprise was the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In that conflict, Israel was fighting for its very existence against a coalition of Arab nations. This war is a much smaller scale, but that is little comfort to the dying, the wounded, the captives, and those who mourn. 

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In the United States, the attack has brought a measure of confusion to the political situation. Prepare for a fruit basket turnover as Republicans who have been opposing foreign aid in general and military aid to Ukraine in particular begin to call for aid to Israel. 

It has only been a little more than a month since Vivek Ramaswamy was calling for an end to aid to Israel, now he’s tweeting in support of Israel and saying, “It could happen here.” 

Spoiler alert: It won’t. The idea that terrorists could cross the southern border has been around since September 11, but there has yet to be a single attack connected to illegal immigration despite the fact that Republicans claim the border is wide open. There are easier ways to infiltrate the US than walking across a highly-patrolled desert border, and if such a plot was in the cards, it probably would have been tried in the 20 years that we’ve been debating border security and immigration reform. The September 11 hijackers immigrated legally, by the way. Having said that, I do believe that we need enhanced border security as a part of comprehensive immigration reform.

For his part, Mike Pence unloaded on the Republican isolationists and President Biden in a single Tweet, saying, “This is what happens when @POTUS projects weakness on the world stage, kowtows to the mullahs in Iran with a $6 Billion ransom, and leaders in the Republican Party signal American retreat as Leader of the Free World. Weakness arouses Evil.”

Both charges are fair. Both parties are complicit underwhelming foreign policy decisions such the retreats from Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Syria and Iraq. And that’s just Obama, Trump, and Biden. 

I seriously doubt that Biden’s deal with Iran precipitated the attack. Planning and preparation were probably going on for a long time before the deal was made a few weeks ago. That still doesn’t mean it’s good policy to send money to a country that is supplying enemies of both Israel and Ukraine, however.

And the similarities with Ukraine don’t stop there. Both Israel and Ukraine were the victims of unprovoked aggression at the hands of their neighbors. Civilians of both countries have been intentionally targeted with both murders and kidnappings. And like the old saw about Israel, if the Russians stopped fighting, there would be peace in Ukraine. If the Ukrainians stopped fighting, there would be a massacre. 

The truth of that axiom has never been more true than this weekend. There was nothing to trigger the Hamas invasion. There had been relative peace for years, yet Hamas threw it all away, including the wellbeing of Gaza residents who are now subject to Israeli attacks and blockades, for a very limited series of attacks that are doomed to fail in the end. 

This ain’t the Yom Kippur War. This is a large series of raids designed to inflict pain and exact revenge, not destroy Israel.

In fact, the biggest difference between Ukraine and Israel may be scale of the attack. The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine was intended to end Ukraine’s existence as an independent nation. For Hamas, the small scale of their effort is more a matter of means than motive. If Hamas had the ability to try to flatten Israel with tanks, they would certainly try.

And it’s not just Republicans who are inconsistent. While President Biden has been strong on both Ukraine and Israel, the same cannot be said of all Democrats. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), whose name autocorrects to “Taliban” on my iPad, failed to condemn the Hamas attack and may be the most high-profile Democrat to be sympathetic to Hamas. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) likewise used the opportunity to criticize Israel, but even AOC condemned the invasion.

What is missed by many is that there is a strong, axis-of-evil pattern emerging in both invasions. Iran, whose fingerprints are all over the Hamas attack, is also supplying weapons to Russia for the war in Ukraine. 

Russia may be involved with Hamas directly since the country’s support for Islamic terror goes back to the days of the Cold War. When the Arabs invaded Israel in 1973 (and before), it was with Soviet weapons. This time the Center for European Policy Analysis notes that Hamas delegations have been welcomed in Putin’s Russia and that Russian television has celebrated Israeli misfortune this weekend.

One possible motive that I’ve heard for the Hamas attack is that Iran might be trying to undermine Israel’s pending treaty with Saudi Arabia. Perhaps presciently, Foreign Policy said in August when the deal was announced that it would mean war with Iran.

For now, the bottom line is that Israel was the victim of unprovoked and brutal aggression. We can and should aid them as they fight off bloodthirsty terrorists. The same applies to Ukraine, which is even more in need of our help.

It’s like the classic meme from “The Office.” When we look at the twin invasions of friendly democratic nations, “They’re the same picture.”

Those who would split hairs and support one but not the other are engaging in political correctness. They ignore the outrageousness of invading a country and murdering its citizens for political expediency. That’s true on both the left and right. Right-wing “non-interventionism” is no less a politically correct position than leftist anti-Zionism.

The correct position for lovers of peace, freedom, and liberty is to oppose Hamas, Iran, and Russia. That opposition should be put into practice by rendering aid to Israel and Ukraine as well as other beleaguered countries who are willing to put our aid to good - and just - use. Sending American aid now may prevent the need to send American boots later.

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