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Of Course We Are Superior and They Are Inferior

1:49 PM, Jun 26, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Glenn Greenwald has a two-part Britney Spears-style meltdown because this blog expressed concern about the conditions under which Gilad Shalit has been imprisoned for the last three years by the terrorist group Hamas. Apparently Greenwald thinks I'm guilty of applying a double standard -- concern for the treatment of uniformed hostages and ambivalence toward the treatment of terrorist detainees. Well, guilty as charged. I really don't care about the rough treatment to which men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were subjected even for the chance of gleaning valuable information. Gilad Shalit, on the other hand, is a uniformed combatant entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions.

The United States, Israel, and the rest of the civilized world do not target civilians, do not hide weapons in mosques, do not use our own children as human shields, do not send our own children to their deaths as suicide bombers, do not seek the extermination of an entire race of people. Terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and the regimes that sponsor them, do. That is why we are morally superior to them, and they are morally inferior to us. And that is also why I'm confident that Gilad Shalit would give anything to have spent the last three years at Gitmo -- playing soccer, watching tv, getting three squares a day -- instead of being a prisoner of Hamas. Because even though they don't deserve it, we still treat our detainees better than terrorists treat theirs.

As far as whether "neocon enemies" are responsible for brokering the deal for Shalit's release, given that Shalit is still in captivity, and given that details remains sketchy, it seems premature to start assigning credit. But the notion that Jimmy Carter is an "enemy" of neoconservatives is absurd. Carter is clearly a dupe, and he's been an annoyance to presidents of both parties for decades, but he is no enemy. Whatever Carter's role in this, if Shalit is released, Bibi will get much of the credit with Israelis, just as if the regime in Tehran falls, Obama will get much of the credit here at home. Leaders get credit for the good things that happen on their watch -- whether they deserve it or not.

One final note: Greenwald writes that I "think that Obama's leverage over Israel is dependent upon the domestic approval ratings of Netanyahu. Actually, that leverage is grounded in the tens of billions of American dollars in aid to Israel, the supplying of American weapons for Israel's various wars, and the multiple forms of diplomatic protection the U.S. extends to Israel." I wrote that Israeli public opinion was Obama's "best leverage" over Netanyahu. Greenwald may not support Israel, but most Americans still do, which means that withholding or threatening to withhold aid, weapons, or diplomatic support from Israel is lousy politics for an American president, even if it would be a dream come true for Greenwald.