Reality check from the Holy Land

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One year after Israel's controversial "Operation Cast Lead" assault on the Gaza Strip, Hamas is back to firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel (when they aren't grappling with Egyptian border guards ), Israel is agreeing to reimburse the UN for the obliteration of their Gaza facilities, and Rahm Emmanuel is reportedly "fed up" with all parties at the apparently vacant Mid-East Peace table. Just another day (year? decade?) in the dystopia that is the Holy Land.

If you ever find yourself wondering how far a row to hoe the Obama Administration has on bringing some semblance of peace to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip, a couple of recent articles from the more or less peace-leaning daily Haaretz offer a startling portrait of contemporary attitudes in Israel.

One details the latest in T-shirt fashion among the graduates of elite training schools of the Israeli Defense Force, which likes to call itself—based upon self-evaluation—the "most moral" army in the world. Young men are prone to sophomoric, even sick, humor and these shirts, which blow past any barriers of mere poor taste, certainly fit the bill. What is more worrisome is how much they may suggest about the real attitudes of IDF forces when they assume their duties within and around the trapped civilian population of the Gaza Strip and what they portend for the future when these young people assume roles of adult political and military responsibility in Israel.

The second article is appalling on an entirely different plane. Written by a resident of an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank, it depicts settlers as modern-day Rosa Parks, co-opting the U.S. civil rights movement in a most hideous fashion and thereby somehow converting Barack Obama—whose presidency is directly attributable to the heroic sacrifice of Parks and people like her—and U.S. efforts to curtail settlements as barriers to peace into the role of segregationists and KKK members. Let's remember that Jewish settlements on the West Bank and roads leading into them are completely segregated. No Arab, Christian or Muslim, is welcome within these settlement walls and are often harassed or worse if they are unlucky enough to get in or near them. (And similar assaults from Arabs on settlers obviously doesn't help promote peace, love, and understanding.) Their illegal presence on the West Bank would not be possible without Israeli government subsidies—and by extension U.S. economic and military aid which allows those subsidies to flow into the settlements—and the outright backing of Jewish Americans who funnel millions into settlement efforts.

This is the convoluted and increasingly meta-sectarian logic that has left Emmanual fed up and which Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell and Barack Obama must somehow grapple before anything approaching a legitimate peace process can begin in the Middle East. Good luck, guys. I suspect that effort, largely abandoned by the previous administration, will make the Health Care campaign seem like a pleasant stroll along the Potomac.