Israel and al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda is not an organization primarily focused on Israel issues, and obviously is not an organization that would go out of business even if a Palestinian state were created. But Israel’s conduct, and America’s attitude toward that conduct, are an important lens through which Muslims see the United States. So time and again you tend to hear things like this about people who wind up working with al-Qaeda:

H[is brother] described Mr. Balawi as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor,” saying that the family knew nothing of Mr. Balawi’s writings under a pseudonym on jihadi Web sites. He said, however, that his brother had been “changed” by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.

This reality makes a lot of American Jews uncomfortable to the point where they try to insist on denying that Israel has anything to do with anyone’s motives for doing anything, but that’s absurd. A ton of people have died in the past ten years of Israeli-Arab fighting and the vast majority of them have been Arabs, and the American approach to these issues has conveyed the impression that America cares more about Israeli life than about Arab life. That’s good for al-Qaeda recruiting and bad for American efforts to secure cooperation. This is one reason why the sometimes tempting idea of just trying to wash our hands of the whole business almost certainly won’t work. It’s strongly in our interests to bring the conflict to an end and stop generating bad blood.