Friday, June 07, 2002

Palestine and Kashmir Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Palestine and Kashmir I love Victor Davis Hanson's work, but even he can put on blinders sometimes and ignore the obvious. This article in NRO brings up a lot of interesting points as to why we pay attention to low-level violence in the Middle East, but neglect a possible nuclear conflagration in South Asia. A must read. But there are two factors he doesn't seem to address much as to why Americans care about Israel so much: 1)The Left Behind series and its apocalyptic ideas about Israel and the End Times almost certainly reflect around one-third of the American population. Kashmir may be idyllic and at the roof the world, but it has little religious significance for evangelicals 2)Jewish power. I don't need to say any more here, and I'm not implying some ethnic conspiracy, but just as black Americans campaigned against apartheid and South Asians worry about the Pakistan-India crisis, Jews tend to care a lot about Israel. But, Jews are in a position to affect change on American policy. Certainly there's nothing wrong with that, Cuban-Americans basically dictate our Cuba policy. But it would be nice if we were candid about how our political system and interest groups work. Africa will get as much aid as Israel when African-Americans donate as much money and care as much as Jews do about Israel. Update: On item 2, please don't infer that I'm anti-Israel. I can characterize my feelings on the Middle East issue as benign apathy. I wouldn't feel too saddened if Israel was destroyed-or if they expelled the Palestinians from the West Bank. My life was OK after the massacre of 500,000 Rwandans, and I follow a rule where 10 black African life are equivalent to 1 European life [thanks for pointing out the wack typo Rob] (here I take my cue from the press and defer to social realities). I probably value Israeli lives similarly to Europeans, so when 50,000 Israelis get killed, maybe I'll pay attention. Similarly, maybe 100,000 (or 200,000, I don't know) Arabs would have been killed to move me out of my torpor. Not that killing isn't bad-but I just refuse to have my heart be dictated by CNN and pretend like I care when my actions indicate I don't as millions of children live in malnutrition throughout the world. Update 2 (From Godless): For the record, I disagree with Razib on this issue. I'm definitely pro-Israeli for reasons I outlined earlier. As for the point Razib brought up about the relative insignificance of the casualties: Yes, it is weird that the deaths of tens or hundreds of Israelis (or Palestinians) attract as much attention as they do when tens of thousands can be killed without notice in other parts of the world (e.g. Africa, South America). And I don't buy the "normalization" nonsense in which 50 Israeli/Palestinian lives are pro-rated for the equivalent percentage of American deaths - human psychology doesn't work like that. However, I'm of the opinion that lives are more "valuable" when TV cameras are around at the moment of death. That's why 9/11 was such a big deal - not only were three thousand people killed, but it was broadcast live on international TV. Visual stimuli impact our "fight or flight" mechanisms more immediately than text does, and it's no surprise that watching Americans die was far more disturbing than reading about Africans/South Americans dying.

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