On Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN this morning Elliott Abrams faced off Peter Beinart and Zakaria (who, frankly, was the more virulent of the two Israel-bashers). He demonstrated how to engage and decimate those whose mission is now to propound in “polite” company the notion that Israel is a pariah state.
First, don’t let them define the terms of the debate:
ZAKARIA: Elliott, let me ask you — Peter, in a recent article — I think it was in “The Daily Beast” — points out that the Gaza blockade which Israel has imposed is not simply a blockade against munitions and arms. It blockades, among other things — these are the things Israel will not permit to enter into Gaza: cilantro, jam, sage, chocolate, dried fruits, notebooks. What is the purpose of a blockade of such goods?
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The purpose of the blockade of Gaza, of course, is to prevent Gaza, which is already “Hamastan,” from firing another 10,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.
ZAKARIA: And how will the jam and cilantro help them make those rockets?
ABRAMS: You know, I’m sure that you can find equal examples in the U.S. and U.N. blockade of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. You can always find in any government action some marginal activity, some list that you don’t like. That’s not the point.
The point is that Israel has stopped two Iranian ships from carrying arms to Gaza. Israel interfered, thank God, this week with a group of armed Turks who came prepared for a fight with iron bars, night vision devices, ceramic vests, despite what, frankly, are the lies that the Turkish foreign minister told on this show today.
Why is it that only Turks out of the 32 nationalities got hurt? It is because only Turks were involved in the violence.
If there is to be an international investigation, it needs to start where the ships started, in Turkey. We need to know what the Turkish government did in helping this armed group of men hijack what was supposed to be a humanitarian effort.
Second, debunk ridiculous arguments. Zakaria asks why Bibi isn’t agreeing to an international investigation. Abrams responds:
I mean, who is kidding whom, Peter? Peter knows, you know, Fareed, and [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu knows himself there isn’t going to be a fair international investigation. There wasn’t a fair investigation of the Gaza war. There isn’t going to be a fair international investigation of the Turkish role in this. Let us not kid ourselves about this. Israel, if it followed the whims of the international community, would have disbanded long ago after the international community voted at the U.N. that Zionism is a form of racism. It is not going to get fair treatment. I think everybody knows that. And the attitude of the Turkish foreign minister on this show today, simply denying the fact that there was a group of 40 or 50 armed Turkish jihadis on the largest ship, proves that there is really no room here for an international investigation that is going to be at all fair.
Third, counteract vile accusations with facts:
ZAKARIA: But that suggests you accept, Elliott, that the blockade is not nearly to prevent weapons from coming in, but to deliberately starve the people in Gaza to make them feel worse off.
ABRAMS: No, I would suggest that the purpose of the blockade is actually twofold.
First, security. And second, to get the kidnapped corporal, Gilad Shalit, out.
You know, those people on those ships last week were asked by Israel, by Israelis, to carry messages or food or solidarity to that boy who has been four years in solitary confinement, and they said no. That’s a real measure of what kind of humanitarians they are.
Can this blockade be improved, can it be better run? Sure. And it will be.
I have no doubt that there will be changes made. But let us not turn our selves into useful idiots here and make believe that those 50 or 40 or 30 armed Turkish jihadis were there because they believe in the cause of peace any more than the people on those ships who refused solidarity to Gilad Shalit were there because they believe in international solidarity. This was an anti-Israeli activity, and the Israelis had every right to prevent it.
And finally, go on the offense. Zakaria coos over Beinart’s column which asserted that liberals can’t back Israel because of Israel’s conduct. Abrams is having none of it, and turns the tables on Beinart (and, by extension, against the growing cohorts of weaselly critics who now vent Israel-hatred while asserting their Jewish bona fides):
ABRAMS: What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.
Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.
BEINART: In fact, that’s really not true.
ABRAMS: Well, it is really true.
BEINART: The Democrat Party, for generations, was a bedrock of support for Israel. And it’s these kids parents and grandparents. There is a significant generational shift going on.
ABRAMS: The significant generational shift is that more and more young American Jews are now Orthodox. The percentage under the age of 10 or 20 that is Orthodox is increasingly going, and they are fervently Zionists. If the Jewish liberals want to walk away from Israel, they’re free to do so, but not to blame Israel for it.
And as for Beinart’s assertion about the Democratic Party, he might want to take a look at current polling. It is the Republican Party — and the common sense and decency of average Americans — on whom Israel must rely for vocal support.
A final note on the Abrams interview. He dismembered his opponents without anger or ad hominem jibes. (Goodness knows how.) The secret actually to dismantling the left’s position with regard to Israel is to expose their anti-Israel talking points and gratuitous swipes as factually unsupportable and to reveal that they stem from their biases, not Israel’s conduct. And it helps to be as calm and prepared as Abrams.