A dear friend - a mainstream Democrat who represented her state at the 2004 Democratic National Convention - raised as an Orthodox Jew and married to an Israeli, wrote to me about her despair over events in the Middle East. I became aware that it was hard for me to discuss openly with her all my feelings - because I didn't want to have a fight, and Israel is a touchy subject.
I also realized that over time, George W. Bush has made it difficult for people with different opinions to talk to one another, to find common ground - and I'm struck by how successful that has been. And, the Arab-Israeli conflict is fertile ground for absolutist views to take root. It is already a touchy subject for many American Jews, for Americans of Arab descent, for all kinds of people.
George Bush wants to divide people. He does this because the basic process of thinking terrifies him. For Bush, any thought opens up Pandora's box, much the way psychoanalysis terrifies people already able to think but who don't want to explore the darker sides of their inner worlds. He is so far from that level of emotional development it would be laughable - if it weren't that he tragically and consistently imposes his fears on the rest of us. To him, thought is like sagebrush - ever present and in need of pruning and uprooting.
With that said, I am not sure where to get the "real" news. Some comes from Israel, and is for sure more accurate than anything produced by our own media. There is real news also from Lebanon, and the reality there is different. For example, how does one KNOW - as Israeli radio claims - that HezboIlah stores missiles in mosques? What we do know is that there is a senseless loss of life and a complete refusal of everyone to talk in any way whatsoever. The blog by Max Blumenthal recounting Israeli opposition to the bombings is heartening.
Leaders can talk too. I'm reminded of when Ted Kennedy brought Gerry Adams of the IRA over to this country. Adams was the head terrorist, the major fomenter of it all. And by legitimizing him, by bringing him out in public, he forced Adams to moderate his behavior. This was not co-opting, though could be seen as such. True, there are fundamental difference between what is going on in the Middle East and that IRA-British conflict - but the differences extend to how the two crises have been handled.
And Bill Clinton tried something similar when he brought Arafat to Washington to meet with Rabin - and the subsequent assassination of Israel's leader of detente by one of its own citizens illustrates the tragic degree of hatred and paranoia (much of it justified) there. Now it's hard even for Jews to talk to Jews, since any legitimate discussion or disagreement can be interpreted as destructive. What Israel ended up with was a right-wing government taking over (though I wonder even now how Sharon might have responded to the kidnappers had be been able to function).
The Israeli response to Hezbollah's kidnapping two soldiers, if that's what really started this round of disaster, reminds me of how WWI began; and how quickly the violence has spread, like sagebrush-fire.
The UN is nothing without the US; the US is nothing as long as Bush runs the show chewing away at his G8 dinners while winking at the cameras. He is Nero incarnate, only it is not only Rome that is burning. It is not even only the Middle East that is burning. It is our entire globally warming heat-and-rain-drenched planet.