Americans like to see themselves as rugged individualists, a nation defined by the idea that people should set their own course through life. Think of Clint Eastwood rendering justice, rule-bound superiors be damned. Think of Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.”
The idea that personal liberty defines America is deeply rooted, and shared across the political spectrum. The lifestyle radicals of the ’60s saw themselves as heirs to this American tradition of self-expression; today, it energizes the Tea Party movement, marching to defend individual liberty from the smothering grasp of European-style collectivism.
But are Americans really so uniquely individualistic? Are we, for example, more committed individualists than people in those socialist-looking nations of Europe? The answer appears to be no.
Consider the events over the past two years that have led up to this moment. The war on Gaza, initially justified by Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, was grossly disproportional and resulted in war crimes against Palestinians that completely overshadowed the casus belli. Since then, the blockade of Gaza has stopped humanitarian assistance and prevented reconstruction-which has only provoked worldwide support for Hamas’ human rights complaints against Israel.
Meanwhile, that war proceeded covertly as well, leading to the clumsiest intelligence operation in Israel’s history-the murder of a Hamas official in Dubai by agents who left behind copious evidence of connections with Mossad. That evidence included passports issued by friendly nations, which of course strained diplomatic relationships with them. Worse, the choice of Dubai as an assassination location put severe pressure on Israel’s unofficial but strong relationship with the United Arab Emirates-a powerful force for moderation and tolerance in the region and beyond.
Whatever Hamas lost when Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was throttled in a Dubai hotel room, the damage to Israel was considerably greater.
Bibi’s press conference was prime material for the late 1970s SNL players. Bibi did all but blame the Poles for the aggression and point to the Polish soldiers fought off and found in uniform dead on his side of the border by the radio station. But we get the same kind of justification: the relief boats are full of ‘terrorists’ and ‘smuggling arms’ etc. One can say that compared to the deliberate violent attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in international waters and murder of U.S. servicemen the Israelis showed relative restraint according to the competing video. No airstrikes or anti-ship missiles.
What Americans should learn from this is that the corruption of the Israeli psyche and poison of the body politic by the Occupation since 1967 is fairly widespread both in political classes and a depressingly large percent of the general public. Even Bibi’s political opposition today without hesitation defend the broader failed concept of subjugation, blockade, macht and oppression as the path to security. And unlike some bloggers’ suggestions, this Idee Fixee won’t be overthrown by whether the Ken Doll puts Bibi’s calls automatically into voice mail.