This article is part of a special edition of Haaretz, to mark Israel's book week.
In America, we don’t know how to talk about Israel but it is especially so on television. If you could bring yourself to watch the Fox television channel (and I did bring myself to do this but could only do it five minutes) you would think that Israel is a tiny, tiny, so tiny country, all alone in the world surrounded by some very big and very powerful enemies who at every moment were capable of reducing this tiny, so tiny powerless country to extinction and so this tiny country had to absolutely inflict some minor inconveniences, not on its very, very big and powerful enemies but on some people who live nearby.
From the television, Israel appears to us to be more important than Hawaii or Alaska, or for that matter, Nebraska or Oklahoma. I, an American, have never been to any of those places. I have been to Israel three times. So naturally when the flotilla incident occurred, it was only a matter of time, like the next hour, before it was a constant part of the news. American President Barack Obama’s life is finished if he doesn’t do something about the British Petroleum ruining the Gulf of Mexico and at the same time do something about the Flotilla incident.
On television, CNN or MSNBC, the Israeli Prime Minister gives him hints, so does the Israeli ambassador to the United States, so does someone who used to give advice to the President of the Palestinian people, so do some senators, and people who used to advise other presidents of the United States about going to war against countries that are not too far from Israel, and people who say they love Israel - and these are the sort of people who make you think that love is strange.
To go from channel to channel is to hear from the same people the same words and phrases: we were set up; they had weapons; they had sling shots and metal pipes and marbles; they used our guns against us; we were defending ourselves; international waters; a provocation; the fight against terror is not an easy choice; a hard choice; we had no choice; Israel should; Israel should not; Gaza, Egypt and Hamas; these people are not peace loving; we are a peace loving people.
It’s the Israeli Ambassador to the United States who is really fascinating. He does not falter in his defense of his country’s right to do anything. Right after the “incident” ( a word that I think goes well with that other word “situation”), when I first saw him on the air, he looked shaken, his voice even unsteady, or so he seemed to me. But then later, he was in full throated form. He seemed to me to be saying, that in a world full of bad actors, why wasn’t Israel allowed to be one of them. I wanted to ring him up and tell him that it was okay to be a bad actor, you just don’t want to look like it. Ask my country, the United States. More than anything, that’s the thing we do best.
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