A reader writes,
Dear Mr. Nordlinger:
Am I supposed to think that Palin’s crossed American and Israeli flags are a good thing? If anything, this is likely to cost her the support of conservatives like me. I am an American. I am a supporter of America. That is only sometimes synonymous with “a supporter of Israel.” Think of this: I happen to be a Roman-Catholic American of Irish descent. Would you be delighted with her if one day she wore a flag pin with crossed Irish and American flags? I would not. How about crossed Vatican and American flags? Again, I would not like it. Israel is an ally to be treated like all other allies — with respect, always recognizing that all our interests do not necessarily coincide. The Jewish state deserves no more, nor any less, than our other allies.
A good letter that deserves an answer. In my column today, I say,
What does Israel have to do with Palin, and vice versa? Well, nothing. But I imagine she feels solidarity with the country: because it is under siege, defamed, plucky, admirable — often heroic. (Although it would rather not be heroic, believe me. It would rather have a quiet life.) I feel the same solidarity — the same solidarity I’m guessing Palin does. If Israel had no enemies, or the normal quotient of enemies, I imagine I would go months and months without ever thinking of the country, the way I do, say, Uruguay.
No offense to Uruguay! But let me continue: Israel is indeed under existential threat — its neighbors, some of them, threaten to wipe them off the map. The Jews have already had one holocaust; now another is threatened. Almost every day, they face war in the form of terror. Many of Israel’s neighbors — even the ones that do not threaten annihilation — do not recognize the country’s right to exist.
Moreover, Israel is constantly defamed, all over the world. Everywhere, the Israelis are singled out for abuse. Economic and academic boycotts are organized against Israel. Sometimes, the entire U.N. seems organized against Israel. Israel is the only nation not allowed to sit on the Security Council. The U.N. Human Rights Council basically exists to castigate Israel.
Israeli sports teams and athletes, uniquely, are harassed everywhere they go. The other day, a girl tennis player was screamed at, constantly, as she played in New Zealand. She won her match anyway.
Etc., etc., etc.
My point: If all this were not the case — if Israel were not a pariah state; if it were treated essentially as, again, Uruguay is — I would never think about Israel. Ever. I might be hard pressed to locate it on a map. And if Ireland were in Israel’s position, I would think a lot of us would wear a shamrock and fly the Irish flag. You know?
Some nations and peoples dream of greatness, dominance, and so on. The Israeli dream, I’m pretty sure, is normality: mere, simple normality. And if they were never thought of again, favorably or unfavorably, it would probably be a day too soon, for them.