Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tawfiq Tirawi

The Wages of Moral Equivalence

In her remarks today Hillary Clinton said this:

When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones in this conflict. And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city and call upon their brethren to “defend” nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called “attacks,” it is purely and simply an act of incitement. These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.

Notice how differently Israel and the Palestinians were treated in this regard. The Israeli prime minister was presumed to be responsible for an intentional slight to the Obama administration when a housing permit was issued. An immediate condemnation — we condemn — was issued. A 43-minute chewing out of the prime minister was conducted and then proudly described to the waiting media. By contrast, days after the event, in a rather roundabout formulation (“must be condemned” — but is she doing so?) to a Jewish audience, Clinton ekes out her statement. You can be sure that a speech to AIPAC days after the event won’t send the Quartet rushing forward to join in this oblique condemnation when the party on the receiving end is not Israel.

And her invocation of Hamas is interesting as well. It is not as if there were no trace of Fatah in all this. From the New York Times:

Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the mainstream party led by President Mahmoud Abbas, gathered here on Thursday to dedicate a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history. . .

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism.

But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

“We are all Dalal Mughrabi,” declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party’s main decision-making body, who came to join the students. “For us she is not a terrorist,” he said, but rather “a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land.”

So Hillary is perhaps giving every benefit of the doubt to Mahmoud Abbas, just at the moment in which she is holding Netanyahu responsible for the housing permit granted by a low-level bureaucrat.

Then there is the additional question, of course, as to whether the U.S. should be engaging in such moral (sort of) equivalence, when the issue is violence, on one hand, and a housing permit in Israel’s eternal capital, on the other. The Obami seem determined to treat friend and foe alike  — or in Israel’s case, the friend gets the less magnanimous treatment. In doing so, Obama and the rest of his administration, including the ever-so-earnest Hillary, communicate to both that we are a feckless ally, willing to trade away principle for the sake of a “deal.” The Palestinians and the Arab states sense that the U.S. and Israel can be squeezed, that we are willing to spin half-truths for the sake of keeping the “process” going. Today Hillary pronounced:

As Vice President Biden said in Israel, we know that to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. And there will not be. For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.

But is that the impression the Muslim World and Iran, specifically, receive, when they see the U.S. lashing out at Israel? It seems in fact that the purpose of the lashing out was to show that we are not so closely aligned with Israel. Indeed, Clinton declared that, “Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.”

But our credibility demands that we stick by deals (including those on settlements agreed under the Bush administration) and back our friends, regardless of the audience. In that regard, Hillary only seemed to emphasize the chasm between AIPAC-friendly rhetoric and administration policy.

In her remarks today Hillary Clinton said this:

When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones in this conflict. And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city and call upon their brethren to “defend” nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called “attacks,” it is purely and simply an act of incitement. These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.

Notice how differently Israel and the Palestinians were treated in this regard. The Israeli prime minister was presumed to be responsible for an intentional slight to the Obama administration when a housing permit was issued. An immediate condemnation — we condemn — was issued. A 43-minute chewing out of the prime minister was conducted and then proudly described to the waiting media. By contrast, days after the event, in a rather roundabout formulation (“must be condemned” — but is she doing so?) to a Jewish audience, Clinton ekes out her statement. You can be sure that a speech to AIPAC days after the event won’t send the Quartet rushing forward to join in this oblique condemnation when the party on the receiving end is not Israel.

And her invocation of Hamas is interesting as well. It is not as if there were no trace of Fatah in all this. From the New York Times:

Dozens of Palestinian students from the youth division of Fatah, the mainstream party led by President Mahmoud Abbas, gathered here on Thursday to dedicate a public square to the memory of a woman who in 1978 helped carry out the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history. . .

To Israelis, hailing Ms. Mughrabi as a heroine and a martyr is an act that glorifies terrorism.

But, underscoring the chasm between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions, the Fatah representatives described Ms. Mughrabi as a courageous fighter who held a proud place in Palestinian history. Defiant, they insisted that they would not let Israel dictate the names of Palestinian streets and squares.

“We are all Dalal Mughrabi,” declared Tawfiq Tirawi, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, the party’s main decision-making body, who came to join the students. “For us she is not a terrorist,” he said, but rather “a fighter who fought for the liberation of her own land.”

So Hillary is perhaps giving every benefit of the doubt to Mahmoud Abbas, just at the moment in which she is holding Netanyahu responsible for the housing permit granted by a low-level bureaucrat.

Then there is the additional question, of course, as to whether the U.S. should be engaging in such moral (sort of) equivalence, when the issue is violence, on one hand, and a housing permit in Israel’s eternal capital, on the other. The Obami seem determined to treat friend and foe alike  — or in Israel’s case, the friend gets the less magnanimous treatment. In doing so, Obama and the rest of his administration, including the ever-so-earnest Hillary, communicate to both that we are a feckless ally, willing to trade away principle for the sake of a “deal.” The Palestinians and the Arab states sense that the U.S. and Israel can be squeezed, that we are willing to spin half-truths for the sake of keeping the “process” going. Today Hillary pronounced:

As Vice President Biden said in Israel, we know that to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. And there will not be. For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.

But is that the impression the Muslim World and Iran, specifically, receive, when they see the U.S. lashing out at Israel? It seems in fact that the purpose of the lashing out was to show that we are not so closely aligned with Israel. Indeed, Clinton declared that, “Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.”

But our credibility demands that we stick by deals (including those on settlements agreed under the Bush administration) and back our friends, regardless of the audience. In that regard, Hillary only seemed to emphasize the chasm between AIPAC-friendly rhetoric and administration policy.

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