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The Disgrace of “The Nation” By: Ronald Radosh
PajamasMedia.com | Friday, January 02, 2009


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As Israel fights a life and death battle with Hamas terrorists, the American Left is doing its part to come to the aid of Hamas. Spearheading this effort is The Nation magazine. A few months ago, my wife and I wrote an article in the pages of the World Affairs Journal about Freda Kirchwey who was the Nation’s publisher and editor in the 1940’s. Kirchwey was instrumental in furthering the case for the establishment of Israel at the U.N., a cause that she fervently believed in and thought that all Americans should support.

The magazine’s current editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, has made clear her own view that what she calls “Israel’s self-destructive occupation” is now the major threat to the country’s future. This view is reflected in the Nation’s pages as they respond to Israel’s defensive actions against the rocket offensive Hamas has unleashed against the Jewish state and its citizens.

Most outrageous is their lead article by Richard Falk, the UN’s “Special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories,” whom I and others have previously shown to be a conspiracy mongering flake. Ignoring the long standing terrorist war waged by Hamas, Falk proclaims Israel’s response to be a massive violation of international humanitarian law, accuses Israel of targeting all of Gaza’s inhabitants because of the actions of “a few militants,” of intentionally “targeting civilians,” and finally, of waging a “disproportionate military response.”

Falk acknowledges that the rocket attacks “are unlawful,” but his sole concern is with what he sees as Israel’s illegal response which he argues are “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” Evidently the rocket attacks are only unlawful, and cannot be construed as war crimes. Nor does he note the missiles provided to Hamas by their patron Iran. Instead, he is concerned with the “complicity” of those who help Israel violate international law by giving the Israelis planes and their own missiles and who support the “siege” of Gaza. Thus, he calls- with the magazine’s obvious approval-for international condemnation of Israel.

Not content with running Falk, The Nation offers the views of its latest foreign policy expert, playwright-actor Wallace Shawn, whose idiocy is as evident here as the bumbling characters he often plays on screen. Shawn says he is concerned with the terror perpetrated against Gaza by the “force and violence” of Israel, and by its “cruelty…starvation” and “slaughter” caused by the Israeli “occupation.”

Jews, he explains, are just irrational because of their persecution throughout the ages. They overreact and instead of seeing that Palestinians are justified in fighting them as oppressors, see them as part of “an eternal mob of anti-Semites.” His speculation on Jewish sanity, of course, has little bearing on the actual reasons why Israel has finally responded to Hamas’s constant rocket attacks, including their current longer range Katyusha rockets, striking closer to major Israeli cities in addition to their having made living in the southern part of the country unbearable .

Next, Nation contributor Robert Dreyfuss seeks to explain that in defending itself, Israel is in effect only reviving Hamas, which was on the verge of collapse. Israeli actions will only further radicalize the Palestinians. What Israel should do, he suggests, is accept that Hamas only wanted to negotiate a cease fire by getting better terms for itself, and therefore not respond to their assault by fighting. Dreyfuss then prepares the magazine’s readers for what will inevitably be their attacks on the incoming Obama administration. What they want, Nation columnist Robert Scheer further explains, is to follow the policies of ex President Jimmy Carter, who Scheer writes “has worked so courageously to confront” the supposed cycle of violence caused by Israeli intransigence.

One wishes the readers of The Nation would consult the writings of those who are discussing the real issues at stake. I suggest an important article by Professor Robert J. Lieber, who teaches international affairs at Georgetown University. Lieber points out that Israel’s air strikes are a reaction to continual and unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks- 200 alone since December 19th, after Hamas broke a six month truce. And unlike those with illusions about Hamas, he notes that it has one objective it consistently stands by, the destruction of the state of Israel. Lieber argues:

While the details of the conflict often appear complex, the fundamentals — hard truths about Gaza, its Hamas rulers and the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict — are straightforward. First, despite the tragic deaths of civilians, Israeli’s airstrikes have been precisely aimed at Hamas fighters, installations and rocket launchers. Inevitably, the use of force causes injury and death to innocents, but from initial figures announced by U.N. personnel, it appears that more than 80 percent of those killed were Hamas security personnel or other militants — a ratio that might compare favorably with the use of force by U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In view of Hamas’s practice of deliberately placing missile launchers and other weapons in the midst of densely populated areas, the precision is remarkable. It also reflects the fact that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) seek to minimize civilian deaths, while Hamas deliberately targets civilians.

As to the argument that Hamas is just reacting to the Israeli occupation, Lieber points out that the only Israeli occupying Gaza for the past three years is Silad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas.

Another article I recommend is by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, one of Israel’s most outspoken defenders in the United States. Dershowitz writes that Israel is saying to Hamas, “If you stop engaging in the war crime of targeting our innocent civilians, we will stop engaging in the entirely lawful military acts of targeting your terrorists. Under the cease-fire, Israel reserved the right to engage in self-defense actions such as attacking terrorists who were in the course of firing rockets at its civilians.”

While Israel, he notes, is trying to pin-point as accurately as possible Hamas military targets, with the intention to minimize civilian casualties, Hamas is purposefully making that goal harder to achieve. Thus the BBC correspondent reported that Hamas’ compounds are in the middle of the city where people live. The correspondent himself saw a compound destroyed that was only 20 meters from his home. Dershowitz understands that the guilty party is Hamas, that makes civilians human shields “behind whom they fire rockets at Israeli civilians.” This “false moral equivalence,” he concludes, “only encourages terrorists to persist in their unlawful actions against civilians.”

And as for the constant cry that Israel’s response is disproportionate, Melanie Phillips points out that “if anything has been ‘disproportionate,’ it’s been Israel’s refusal to take action during the years when its southern citizens have been terrorized by rockets and other missiles raining down on them from Gaza. No other country in the world would have sat on its hands for so long in such circumstances.”

Thankfully, the current administration understands this, and one trusts, so will Barack Obama.


Ronald Radosh, Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.


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