Well, where was all that international outrage and demand for explanations and retribution when the North Koreans sunk a South Korean ship? Where was it when the Gazans attacked Israel? Where, when Afghan men flogged their women for not wearing veils? Where, when Saudi Arabia funds terrorists around the world? This international outrage is highly selective, isn't it? The one consolation is that the international community, such as it has become, doesn't get anything of value done.North Korea is a country with no allies that everybody thinks is crazy. The only reason we don't go harder on them is that it's tough to figure out what to do about the situation without punishing the innocent victims of Kim Jong Il's tyranny or dumping a massive refugee crisis on South Korea. For almost the last ten years, we've been fighting a big war against the guys in Afghanistan who are flogging women for not wearing veils. We're escalating it now. I'll agree with Gelb that Saudi Arabia deserves more ire, not just for terrorism but for the gruesome state of women's rights. We're shaking the devil's hand because it's oily. But the idea that anybody of significance is treating Israel's violations as worse than those of North Korea or Afghanistan suggests a poor grasp of political dynamics on Earth.
The only reason people don't make more noise about the bad guys in North Korea and Afghanistan is that US policy already takes full account of their badness. You'd be preaching to the choir. And they're so far gone that there's no point in asking them to explain themselves. The Taliban is a vicious enemy, and Kim Jong Il is a mad dictator. There's plenty of room for policy disagreements about the best way to deal with evil forces like this given limited resources and complicated consequences, but everyone agrees on how awful these guys are.
Israel, meanwhile, gets billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States. If you're going to take large amounts of our foreign aid budget, you'd better give us a reason to think you're the good guys. With the bombing of Lebanon, the blockade of Gaza, the denial of voting rights to the Palestinians, and now commando raids on aid boats, it's hard for me to see why we should regard the Israelis as better than the Palestinians. The casualty ratios are crazy -- 117 Israelis have been killed in the conflict from 2005 to late 2008, comparied with 1754 Palestinians. 12 Israeli children have been killed in that period, compared to 309 Palestinians. People talk about Israel's right to defend itself, but when you're killing 25 times as many of the other side's kids as they're killing of yours, they've got the higher card in the self-defense suit.
There's a very good reason for Americans to hold Israel to a higher standard than North Korea or Afghanistan -- instead of diplomatically isolating them or invading them, we're giving them lots of money! And at a certain level, the demand for explanations is based on a presumption that Israel is a rational ally deserving of our support whom we can ask for explanations. If Gelb is right that we should stop asking Israel to explain itself to us, it's only because that presumption, and the support that goes with it, is making less and less sense.