Here’s How — As With This Israel-Hamas War — Western Elites Are Baffled by the Middle East
The elite currently in power in the Western mass media will never comprehend the Middle East. There is a problem with bias, for sure, but the big issue is the impenetrable ignorance of the very people entrusted with explaining the region to others. They insist on imposing their own misconceptions on the situation while ignoring the evidence.
Consider Janine Zacharia. What a distinguished resume: Jerusalem bureau chief and Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post (2009-2011), chief diplomatic correspondent for Bloomberg News (2005-2009), and before that five years working for the Jerusalem Post in Washington, D.C., and another five years working for Reuters and other publications from Jerusalem. Right now she’s a visiting lecturer at Stanford University in communications.
Surely, such a person must understand the region’s issues, and if anyone isn’t going to have an anti-Israel bias in the mass media it would be her. And she isn’t anti-Israel in a conscious, political sense. Indeed, she obviously views herself as sympathetic. Rather, her assumptions make her type of views inevitably anti-Israel and, more broadly, inevitably destructive of U.S. interests on other issues.
Here’s her article in Slate. The title is “Why Israel’s Gaza Campaign is Doomed.” Not why this response is the best of a set of difficult options; not why the world should support Israel; not why Hamas should be removed from power with international support but why Israel is wrong and stupid to fight. “Doomed” is a strong word.
The subhead — adapted from Zacharia’s text — is “Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to bomb Hamas militants will leave Israel more isolated, insecure, and alone.” Not the decision of Israel’s unanimous leadership including first and foremost its military and defense experts but that of a prime minister who now plays a role for the American media most closely approximated to that held by former President George W. Bush.
And by defending itself against an onslaught of rockets — 120 in one week — Israel will be worse off even though, by the way, every Western country I’m aware of has supported Israel. Why will Israel be more isolated, insecure, and alone? Because the unspoken assumption of the Western media elite is that anyone who uses force, even in self-defense, ends up worse off.
It is quite reasonable to state that the campaign will not end the problem. Everyone in Israel and in Israel’s leadership and all the generals and Netanyahu know this very well. They also know that a country that does not defend itself will end up doomed, isolated, insecure, and alone.
They also know the best that can be expected given this situation is to force Hamas to deescalate for two or three years before the next round. One of the goals of the operation is to destroy the large military stockpiles — especially longer-range missiles — that Hamas has accumulated since 2009. Thus, Hamas will have to start all over again to smuggle in weapons. The next time they start a war it will be from a far weaker position than if they had not taken such losses.
Much of the Western elite no longer understands concepts which their predecessors took for granted during the last two centuries. You can go back even further than that to Joshua 7: 8-9 when Joshua prays after a military defeat:
What can I say after Israel has turned tail before its enemies? When the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land hear of this, they will turn upon us and wipe out our very name from the earth.
Zacharia, however, faithfully represents the current standpoint of the Western elite. Here is her prescription:
Israel needs a far more sophisticated, diplomatic, long-term strategic policy for dealing with Gaza and all the threats around it—from Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and perhaps Egypt. A new Israeli approach may have to include a willingness to at least try talking to Hamas, which is fighting its own internal battle against even more radical, anti-Israel groups in the Gaza Strip. It may mean putting more pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, languishing in irrelevance in Ramallah, to make peace with Hamas so there can be negotiations with Israel and a permanent end to this rocket-war madness.
Let’s list her arguments: