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Israel: America’s Frankenstein Monster

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Israel: America's FrankensteinWith Israeli tanks rolling into the Gaza Strip and Hamas fighters firing dozens of rockets into Israel every day, the two sides in the endless Middle East standoff appear to be replaying scenes from a recurring nightmare, with real-world tragic effects. I don’t mean to suggest that the conflict is in any sense symmetrical.

As we have already seen, the worst price for this latest round of violence will be paid by the civilian population of Gaza, almost 2 million people fenced into a slice of arid seacoast with roughly the same land area as the city of Detroit. But for those of us in the West, and especially in the United States, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out in public discourse, over and over again, as a drama of rhetoric and propaganda, accusation and counter-accusation.

Both in the real conflict on the ground and the ideological conflict for hearts and minds, both sides feel misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized – and if you’re willing or able to take the long view, they both have a point. Along with every other American journalist, I received emails this week from Arab-American groups complaining about the pro-Israeli bias of the mainstream media, and from Jewish activists eager to elucidate President Obama’s “pro-Muslim agenda” and his long-term campaign to undermine Israel.

Within the American left, which for generations has been closely allied with the Jewish intellectual tradition, this ideological combat can often be intensely personal and painful. I’ve managed to stay out of the angry debates between friends and acquaintances in my Facebook feed – about whether Rachel Maddow is an Israeli shill, or whether American progressives are hypocrites for weeping over Gaza but ignoring the death toll in Iraq, Syria and Egypt – and I don’t even want to know what kinds of insults people are hurling at each other on Twitter.

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