I don’t usually write about domestic politics in this blog space but since Trump is so uninformed, and proud of it, I thought I would help him out a little bit. Trump barely knows what he’s talking about – and on other occasions knows nothing about what he’s talking about – but is actually one of the few candidates who has turned that into a positive because he gets aggressive with anybody who questions him. During a radio interview the other day he was asked about the differences between has Hezbollah and Hamas. When his ignorance is challenged he returns the aggression by accusing the questioner of asking “gotcha” questions, as if the leader of the free world isn’t supposed to know anything. Trump continues to claim he’s is an excellent delegator who will get the best people in place and five minutes after he’s President he’ll be thoroughly informed and know more than everybody else. I guess Trump believes that the American people are electing a delegator not a leader. In one interview when Trump was asked what he would do about Obama care he answered by saying, “I’ll get rid of it and replace it with something terrific.” It was comforting to hear that his health care program will be “terrific.”
Trump whines like a baby every time someone asks him a question that requires a substantive answer. So I thought I would help him out a little bit since the issues do fall within the confines of this blog. I’ll briefly outline some distinctions for him that should be sufficient to get him through the next debate. If he wants more detail – and I’m sure he doesn’t – he will have to dig it up himself or have one of his delegates do it.
For starters, Hamas and Hezbollah share a few things in common as both oppose the West and Israel and they are fundamentally animated by Islamic extremism. But the differences remain clear enough and the Donald can strut his stuff if he learns them. If Trump offers up even a morsel of accurate information his credibility will soar.
Hamas is based in Palestine and has a military wing. It was founded by Shaeikh Yassin and is rooted in the Muslim brotherhood. It operates primarily in the West Bank and Gaza and when it’s not challenging Israel it emphasizes social services for the people of those areas. The Israelis started out by supporting Hamas because they thought it would be a counter influence to secular Fatah. But after a number of Hamas attacks Israel altered its relationship.
In 2006 Hamas was successful at winning a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature thus establishing themselves as the representatives of Gaza. Interestingly, Hamas and Hezbollah share a common hatred and opposition to Israel but differ fiercely with respect to their own brand of Islam. Hamas is primarily a Sunni organization and Hezbollah is Shia. This is a significant difference between the two.
Hezbollah is based in Lebanon not Palestine and fights Israel from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah means “army of God” and carries out suicide bombing, kidnappings, along with support from Iran.
Both of these groups are dangerous threats to Israel and have easy access to weapons, especially Hezbollah who receive sophisticated military support from Iran.
I could provide Trump some reading but how simple it is to Google these two groups and just do it himself. Or, Trump could delegate the task since he is such a skilled delegator. Have one of his delegates Google it for him.
Israel supporters are struck dumb by what they consider to be the great moral inversion. In fact, as Jeffrey Goldberg writing in The Atlantic states, “Hamas is a theocratic fascist cult committed to the obliteration of Israel.” It is an organization committed to genocide. Hamas represents nothing of modern democratic political theory– religious tolerance, political participation, association rights, liberal values, etc. But to the chagrin of many Hamas is treated as if it were a legitimate political party committed to the interests of Gazans rather than itself. Hamas is fighting a war in which they are trying to kill as many of their enemy as possible (Israelis); Israel is fighting a war in which they are trying to avoid killing as many people as possible. The moral inversion continues.
John Kerry is currently struggling with a cease-fire agreement because he insists on granting Hamas various rights rather than treating it according to his own State Department’s designation as a terrorist group. Kerry’s defense is that Hamas is a reality that must be dealt with and I agree with that, but one does not cave in to a terrorist group’s demand for their own security, funding, and freedom of movement in order to secure a cease-fire. On the contrary, that would be a reward for the group’s behavior and will probably encourage future violence if such rewards are available.
So what explains this? Why is this violent anti-Semitic group being treated seriously while Israel takes a perceptual and public relations beating? Why do the Palestinians, who are equally as blameworthy for the failure of conflict management, win the narrative? Why are they the sympathetic underdog? Here are a few suggestions:
Imagine some tough guy big kids in your neighborhood who are teased and taunted by a bunch of little kids. The little kids throw rocks, break the windows at houses, and spread false or distorted stories about these big kids to others in the neighborhood. The big kids defend their houses and respond to the rock throwing with fistfights they easily win, and throwing back bigger and harder rocks. The big kids do more damage and bloody the noses of the little kids and are “blamed” for inflicting damage even though they were defending themselves and the little kids initiated the aggression. And so it is with the Israelis and Palestinians. It doesn’t seem to matter how the Palestinians or Hamas behave, the Israelis get blamed because they are capable of inflicting more damage. The big kids and the Israelis lose if they defend themselves and if they do not defend themselves. So Hamas wins the narrative battle every time they manipulate Israel into killing Palestinians. Israel cannot escape the paradox.
Secondly, the Palestinians have mastered the underdog narrative. During pre-state Israel, and even in the early days of the state, Jews were the underdog and the center of world attention and sympathy. But now the left has switched its allegiance to the newest minority group. There is a spectrum of the left that never met a minority group it did not consider oppressed and the Palestinians are a perfect example.
And third, the second point above is informed by the context of anti-Semitism. I dislike and reject the notion that anti-Semitism is everywhere and always the explanation for criticism of Israel. Surely Israel can be criticized without it being anti-Semitic. But sometimes the criticism of Israel is so bizarre, so morally inverted, that only anti-Semitism explains it. And new media has brought violent and vitriolic anti-Semitism to the forefront. Anti-Semitism was of hallucinogenic proportions during the Holocaust, completely unjustified by reality, and there are moments when I feel the same conditions returning.
Finally, everyone has to do more. Israel has to make its case better to the world. They need spokespersons and better public relations to be sure. But that’s only a small part of the problem. It is not a public relations problem but an argument one. It is incumbent on Israel to do a better job of explaining to the world who they are and what they are fighting against. Moreover, Israel has to begin addressing those issues where change is inevitable. Settlements, for example, are just not going to be there in the end – at least in their present form. The only way Israel remains a nation of Jews, for Jews, and defined as a Jewish state devoted to some sense of Jewish particularity is by allowing the Palestinians to do the same for themselves in their own state. Israel must make more aggressive progress toward this goal.
Until then, Israel will continue to win military battles and kill more of the other side (which is never a very good measure of anything), but lose the narrative battle.