8/19/2005

David's Israel Adventure: Withdrawal in Israel, withdrawal in Iraq?

Withdrawal in Israel, withdrawal in Iraq?

The process of withdrawing Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip has led me to consider other Middle East withdrawals. My buddy Ezra Klein, who writes an awesome blog, has recently been writing about the possibility of a US withdrawal from Iraq. Ezra, like me, was a liberal hawk who supported the war. Unlike me, Ezra has done some serious reflection on the issue and has changed his tune. Well, he's certainly gotten me thinking. Reading his arguments, along with the articles he has linked to such as this American Prospect cover piece by Harold Meyerson attacking pro-war pundits and this brilliant critique of American foreign policy by Sherle R. Schwenninger in The Nation. These articles have forced me to seriously consider not just my support for the Iraq War, but also my support of militarism in general, which, I think relates directly to my Jewish and Zionist identities.

I grew up in a thoroughly Jewish, Zionist environment in Montreal, Canada. The grandchild of Holocaust survivors and descendant and relative of many who fell at the hands of the Nazis, the war that defined my childhood was not Vietnam or even the Gulf War, but World War II. This war was a good war, a war of necessity and survival, and those who fought against Hitler, like my grandfathers and great uncle for Poland or the Red Army, were heroes.
At my Zionist high school, I learnt of other good wars: Israel's war of independence in 1948, their campaign in the Sinai in 1956, the miraculous Six-Day War of 1967 and the terrifying Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israel's wars were also wars of survival, but even more than that, they were wars fought to assert Jewish identity and pride. When I think of an Israel flag flying atop the Kotel for the first time in June of 1967, I cry tears of joy.

Because of this upbringing, I was inculcated with an inherent respect for the military. This extended beyond the IDF to America as well. Maybe this is because I loved watching G.I. Joe growing up, a Canadian envious of American patriotism. I don't know. While on domestic issues of social and economic policy I am for the most part rather progressive (more in line with Canada than the US), I retain my belief in the goodness of soldiers, often people of lower or working class background who middle and upper class people like myself often take for granted. I am not super-hawk, and my understanding of history has led me to believe that I would have opposed the Vietnam War had I been alive in the 1960s and 1970s. But when I was confronted with a war of my own to support, my distrust of Bush was overwhelmed by my sense that to help Iraqis, the region, and the world, Saddam must be overthrown. I never believed Saddam was responsible for 9/11 or had ties to Al Queda, but in my mind, I linked him with Osama, and with Hamas, and with all the forces coming from the Middle East that detests Israel and freedom. As a result, I linked in my mind the image of Israeli soldiers fighting terror to preserve the Jewish State with US soldiers fighting terror to preserve freedom. Thinking things through now, this link is probably more emotional than intellectual, though I still think there is merit to it. I'm just not sure anymore.

Perhaps I was wrong in my support for the war on Saddam. And I am certainly willing to entertain the idea of a withdrawal from Iraq. But while it's easy for me to think of Dubya as the bad guy, it's still hard for me to see American soldiers as the bad guys (excluding obvious instances like Abu Ghraib) because I link them with Israeli soldiers, who fill me with pride. Of course, there are also Israeli soldiers who let me down and commit atrocities, but at the institutional level, I hold the IDF and the American military and high regard and it is unlikely this will ever change.

David's Israel Adventure: Withdrawal in Israel, withdrawal in Iraq?

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