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Kos, Hezbollah, and Israel


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Kos, Hezbollah, and Israel

Israel's war reveals a division between the liberal blogosphere and the Democratic party.

by Dean Barnett

07/24/2006 12:00:00 AM

WHEN THE BOMBS began to fall in the Middle East, the Daily Kos had a problem. And the Daily Kos's problem could soon be the Democratic party's problem.

On the one hand, one of the most solid blocks of support for the Democratic party is America's Jewish community. Not only do America's Jews tend to vote for Democrats, they tend to actively campaign and raise funds for politicians on the left. But for many American Jews, even the most liberal, Israel's welfare is a going concern. Politicians who enter the Democratic party (and for that matter the Republican party) usually make a conspicuous show of the fact that they are "right on Israel."

The vast majority of American political sentiment supports Israel while it is engaged in a shooting war with Hezbollah. To date, not a single prominent American politician has issued a statement that could be construed as being less than whole-heartedly supportive of Israel.

On the other hand, there is the Daily Kos community. As proprietor Markos Moulitsas frequently notes, the Kos community is representative of the "people-powered movement." They are not led by one person; indeed, they are not led at all.

The miracle of the Kossacks is that they are tens of thousands of like-minded people who have used the site to find one another. Although they differ on many details, they tend to monolithically detest George W. Bush and American conservatives. They also tend to distrust or loathe anything or anyone that winds up in Bush's literal or metaphorical embrace. Like Joe Lieberman. Or Israel.

THE CONFLAGRATION in Lebanon has provided an example of the people-powered movement's potential to be a liability for the politicians who have tried to curry favor with it.

Perhaps sensing that this issue could highlight just how far removed the Kos community is from the American mainstream, Moulitsas and his other front-page bloggers have opted to ignore Israel's war. Combined, the half dozen front-pagers have written exactly one post on the subject. And that post, authored by Moulitsas, simply declared that he wouldn't write anything further on the subject. So while the most important story of the year develops, the nation's leading progressive blog has chosen to focus on the Indiana second district House race between Chris Chocola and Joe Donnelly. Nothing wrong with that; it's their prerogative to blog about whatever they like.

But inside the Kos diaries, it's been a different story. The conversation in the diaries has been overwhelmingly anti-Israel--and potentially disastrous for the Democratic party.

One diarist labeled Israel "a destabilizing force in the region" and saw "no difference between Iran's support of Hezbollah and Hamas in the form of finances and even arms and The United States' financial support of Israel." Before modifying this diary into a more moderate form, the author opened his essay with the declaration, "Israel is showing the entire world why the Iranian President was absolutely right to suggest that Israel cease being a sovereign state as is."

Echoing the themes of moral equivalence and hostility towards the Jewish state, another diarist observed that, "War is nothing but terrorist attacks. Call it what you will, whatever rhetoric you want to use . . . when it comes down to it, that's all it is. Israel committed terrorism today. And we helped to fund that terrorism." [Ellipsis in original.]

It's important to note that hundreds of comments following these and other diaries hostile to Israel voice similar sentiments. In one diary, the author labeled Israel's actions as a "pogrom by bomb." A concurring commenter offered the following thoughts:

My Lebanese friend, in addition to a number of less temporate [sic] sentiments, says the only thing she can say as her country is smashed to bits is something she learned from an orthodox rabbi:

"Pray for the Speedy Peaceful Dismantlement of the State of Israel."

I second the suggestion. Unhappily Israel has not served as a Jewish refuge; it has become a spreading plague.

THESE DIARIES AND COMMENTS come from the people who power the people-powered movement. It is worth remembering that less than a month ago a Who's Who of elite Democratic politicians trundled off to Las Vegas for the Yearly Kos convention, desperately seeking the community's imprimatur. Among those groveling before the Kossacks were such luminaries as Wesley Clark, Mark Warner and Bill Richardson.

Other prominent Democrats have sought to associate themselves with the Kos community, too. John Kerry and Jimmy Carter have written multiple diaries for the site. Virginia Senate candidate James Webb ran a recurring advertisement on the Daily Kos. Joe Lieberman's Democratic primary opponent, Ned Lamont, has so closely identified himself and his candidacy with the site that he gave Moulitsas a starring role in one of his campaign advertisements.

Yesterday on his website, Lamont issued the following proclamation:

At this critical time in the Middle East, I believe that when Israel's security is threatened, the United States must unambiguously stand with our ally to be sure that it is safe and secure. On this principle, Americans are united . . . All Americans want the kidnapped [israeli] soldiers to be returned and this cycle of violence to end, based on the principles of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 of 2004, which calls for Hezbollah militias to be disbanded and disarmed, with the government of Lebanon taking full control of all of its territory. It is not for the United States to dictate to Israel how it defends itself.

But a glance through the Daily Kos diaries reveals that not all Americans are united on such matters as whether it is "for the United States to dictate to Israel how it defends itself." Indeed, not even all Americans are united on whether or not Israel is a "terrorist state." Some Americans believe that Israel should not exist. And these are the Americans that Lamont and other Democrats have so eagerly embraced.

Dean Barnett writes on politics at SoxBlog.com


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