I WAS WATCHING Greta Van Facelift on Fox the other night, and she and her guests made me talk back to the TV. Shout back, actually. Nothing witty or trenchant, you understand, just something like, "Oh, come on!" Now, to be honest, it was late, and I was downstairs alone, and I was a little, what's the word . . . loaded, yes, that's the word. I was a little shined up. A little spiffed and a little miffed, and I shouted something and angrily turned off the remote. I don't know exactly how angrily a remote can be turned off, but as angrily as you can push a pfennig-sized piece of round plastic, that's how angrily I did it. Then I walked back to the bar, made myself one-for-the-stairs (as opposed to one-for-the-road) and read some P.G. Wodehouse to restore my cheery nature. But back to the freshly-tightened Greta.
Her guests were (INSERT INDISTINGUISHABLE ARAB NAME), from Hamas, and their attorney, Stanley Cohen. No, that's not a joke. Would that it were. Stanley Cohen, the attorney for Hamas. Check that handle again: Stanley Cohen. I mean, if you tried to make up a better name than that, you couldn't do it. Let's give it a shot, though, shall we? Irving Lefkowitz. Nah, too obvious. Lew Fishman. No, no, sounds like a carpet salesman. Isaac Bashevis Singer? Now I'm reaching. Nope, you just can't beat good ol' Stan Cohen. Yes, Stanley Cohen, folks, a hard-left, righteously indignant true-believer, an honors graduate from the William Kunstler School of Just-Not-Getting-It-And-Never-Will, who had flown all the way from New York to sit next to his wonderful client over there in not the land of milk and honey. Stanley Cohen. A man who, if he listened very carefully, would no doubt hear voices in the next room planning to blow the eyes out of more of his nieces and nephews. Stanley Cohen, and even typing that name right now and remembering this horrible man damning his own people again and again and again, I crack a nervous smile, because they're my people, too, and, God help me, if I didn't laugh, I think I might cry.
Oddly enough, out of the three of them, the homunculus from Hamas didn't bother me at all. I mean, if you think about it, why should he bother any American? We know exactly who he is and, in a way, we should be grateful for that. Because if we're only willing to absorb their own words--nevermind their demonic deeds--he and his brethren have a perfectly uncomplicated point of view and agenda, and their clarity should give us our own clarity, and wouldn't that be refreshing? You want us dead? Well, now, isn't that a funny coincidence. Guess what we want?
My point is, if American TV calls up and wants to put these philanthropists on, who could blame them for saying, "Sure!" I can just see them bursting out laughing and slapping each other on the back. ("They're going to put us on Fox TV! I told you terror works! And I'll bet their Green Room beats the snot out of Al Jazeera. I mean, please, how many olives can you eat?") If we're stupid enough to do that, I don't blame them for taking us up on it. All they have to do is take a few minutes away from packing rusty nails around the C4, pick one of their guys who looks, relatively, the least like a vicious scumbag, borrow a suit, and send him forth to smile for the cameras. With Stanley Cohen.
But let's leave the newly-stretched Greta for a moment, as well as our friends Stanley and Ishmael (no joke, his real name). A brief overview of the situation is always valuable, so as a service to all Americans who still don't get it, I now offer you the story of the Middle East in just a few paragraphs, which is all you really need. Don't thank me. I'm a giver. Here we go:
The Palestinians want their own country. There's just one thing about that: There are no Palestinians. It's a made up word. Israel was called Palestine for two thousand years. Like "Wiccan," "Palestinian" sounds ancient but is really a modern invention. Before the Israelis won the land in war, Gaza was owned by Egypt, and there were no "Palestinians" then, and the West Bank was owned by Jordan, and there were no "Palestinians" then. As soon as the Jews took over and started growing oranges as big as basketballs, what do you know, say hello to the "Palestinians," weeping for their deep bond with their lost "land" and "nation." So for the sake of honesty, let's not use the word "Palestinian" any more to describe these delightful folks, who dance for joy at our deaths until someone points out they're being taped. Instead, let's call them what they are: "Other Arabs From The Same General Area Who Are In Deep Denial About Never Being Able To Accomplish Anything In Life And Would Rather Wrap Themselves In The Seductive Melodrama Of Eternal Struggle And Death." I know that's a bit unwieldy to expect to see on CNN. How about this, then: "Adjacent Jew-Haters."
Okay, so the Adjacent Jew-Haters want their own country. Oops, just one more thing. No, they don't. They could've had their own country any time in the last thirty years, especially two years ago at Camp David. But if you have your own country, you have to have traffic lights and garbage trucks and Chambers of Commerce, and, worse, you actually have to figure out some way to make a living. That's no fun. No, they want what all the other Jew-Haters in the region want: Israel. They also want a big pile of dead Jews, of course--that's where the real fun is--but mostly they want Israel. Why? For one thing, trying to destroy Israel--or "The Zionist Entity" as their textbooks call it--for the last fifty years has allowed the rulers of Arab countries to divert the attention of their own people away from the fact that they're the blue-ribbon most illiterate, poorest, and tribally backward on God's Earth, and if you've ever been around God's Earth, you know that's really saying something. It makes me roll my eyes every time one of our pundits waxes poetic about the great history and culture of the Muslim Mideast. Unless I'm missing something, the Arabs haven't given anything to the world since Algebra, and, by the way, thanks a hell of a lot for that one.
Chew this around and spit it out: Five hundred million Arabs; five million Jews. Think of all the Arab countries as a football field, and Israel as a pack of matches sitting in the middle of it. And now these same folks swear that if Israel gives them half of that pack of matches, everyone will be pals. Really? Wow, what neat news. Hey, but what about the string of wars to obliterate the tiny country and the constant din of rabid blood oaths to drive every Jew into the sea? Oh, that? We were just kidding.
My friend Kevin Rooney made a gorgeous point the other day: Just reverse the numbers. Imagine five hundred million Jews and five million Arabs. I was stunned at the simple brilliance of it. Can anyone picture the Jews strapping belts of razor blades and dynamite to themselves? Of course not. Or marshalling every fiber and force at their disposal for generations to drive a tiny Arab state into the sea? Nonsense. Or dancing for joy at the murder of innocents? Impossible. Or spreading and believing horrible lies about the Arabs baking their bread with the blood of children? Disgusting. No, as you know, left to themselves in a world of peace, the worst Jews would ever do to people is debate them to death.
Mr. Bush, God bless him, is walking a tightrope. I understand that with vital operations coming up against Iraq and others, it's in our interest, as Americans, to try to stabilize our Arab allies as much as possible, and, after all, that can't be much harder than stabilizing a roomful of supermodels who've just had their drugs taken away. However, in any big-picture strategy, there's always a danger of losing moral weight. We've already lost some. After September 11 our president told us and the world he was going to root out all terrorists and the countries that supported them. Beautiful. Then the Israelis, after months and months of having the equivalent of an Oklahoma City every week (and then every day) start to do the same thing we did, and we tell them to show restraint. If America were being attacked with an Oklahoma City every day, we would all very shortly be screaming for the administration to just be done with it and kill everything south of the Mediterranean and east of the Jordan. (Hey, wait a minute, that's actually not such a bad id . . . uh, that is, what a horrible thought, yeah, horrible.)
There's bad news on the losing moral weight front, and the signs are out there. Last week, the day after Secretary Powell left on his mission (whatever that was), the Los Angeles Times ran its lead editorial in one hundred percent support of the trip and the pressure he and President Bush were putting on Israel. Here's a good rule of thumb: If the Los Angeles Times thinks you're doing a great job, everything you're doing is wrong, stupid and mortally dangerous. If they think everything you're doing is wrong, stupid and mortally dangerous, you're doing a great job, and, in fact, your chances are probably very good for getting on the fast track for sainthood.
So, now, back to Greta. You know what made me mad enough to shout? You might not even think it was that big a thing.
After the show she said to these guys, "Thank you, gentlemen, for being my guests." "Gentlemen." "Guests." "My guests." That's what it's come to with these non-judgmental hosts and hostesses. Nice, huh? "Thank you, Mr. Stalin, sir, for being so gracious in giving us your valuable time." "My eternal gratitude, Chairman Mao, for taking precious moments away from your splendid Five-Year Plan and visiting with us in this most convivial way."
And I winced, and grunted, and shouted. Oh, yeah, and made that drink.
I mean, please, folks. In 1941, did reporters feel it was their duty to give equal time to Hitler and Hirohito? Would Stanley Cohen have represented them? Ok, Stanley probably would have, but would any American have stood still while he told us about it?
Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.