Guts and Gutlessness*


Salon’s blogger, Glenn Greenwald, asked a question last week about what he believes to be excessive U.S. acquiescence on Israel’s behalf, and repeated it in a major paper; you’d think he’d be interested in posting answers to it (Andrew Sullivan has delivered a couple, mine is below) but I guess not.

Kind of gutless.

So I called up his site today, expecting to sneer – and this time I couldn’t help agreeing. He takes to task Michael Goldfarb, Marty Peretz and Glenn Reynolds for dismissing Palestinian civilian lives as expendable.

With Goldfarb, he’s rock-solid. Peretz, I think, is slippery enough that I’m not so sure. Reynolds tries to ooze his way out of it by implying that he meant Hamas, not the Palestinians, but the corrolary to "Israelis" is "Palestinians," not Hamas. ("Israel’s government" or "the Israeli army" would have been a corrolary to Hamas.)

But that’s nitpicking. Greenwald’s broader point is correct – no one does Israel any good by diminishing the meaning of the death of a child. No one.

This is not just academic, it’s not a nod to kumbaya politics, it’s not a solemn recognition of Jefferson’s dictum. Become a parent, and intuitively, you know that all children are equally innocent, all children, all children. All children. And you know that the loss of each child is catastrophic and unimaginable and that it must be resisted, and when it happens, it must never be cauterized, it must be allowed to fester. (And please, no discussion of age limits – this conflict has killed 4-year olds.)

And maybe on this point I’m a little tougher even than Greenwald, because I won’t give a pass to reflexive declarations of "regrettability," I want every one of these deaths examined and answered for.

There is innocence until guilt is proven, yes. But I really want the hard questions answered and I don’t think I’m alone.

And consider this: The refusal to allow the death of a child to go unexplained, to let it shimmer into meaninglessness, the embrace of the festering wound, is what gave us strength enough to be redeemed in statehood.

We excise that at our peril: We lose our moral strength and become gutless in ways that make Greenwald’s ellisions seem paltry.

*Apologies to Jane Austen

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