As the world gawks at the carnage in the Middle East and vague proposals for an international peacekeeping force are bandied about, it's interesting to note how Israel and its allies frame the current campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza. On the one hand, this conflict is about people like Carmia, huddled in hallways or bomb shelters -- or the scores of displaced Lebanese non-combatants seeking safety. But it's also about both sides laying claim to a mantle: the mantle of Islam, or pan-Arabism, or avatar of Palestinian nationalism; or the mantle of prosecutor of the war on terror, the war on Islamic fundamentalism, totalitarianism, and, now, "extremism."
As many analysts have noticed, Hezbollah's actions in the north provided the Olmert government with an opportunity to bundle together both the Gaza operation and a retaliatory effort in the north as part of a greater struggle against radical Islam. The situation affords Israel a seductive moral clarity in its actions.
I see the frame placed around this conflict by Israel and its supporters growing ever bigger. This is evident in Sen. Hillary Clinton's comments today in front of the UN. For Hillary, the issue isn't just the Middle East, it's American -- even universal -- values: democracy, human rights, anti-totalitarianism, national sovereignty.
As a marketing tool, I think Olmert and Hillary have got a winner; somehow I think that a war on "Islamofascism" or "Islamic totalitarianism" wins over European hearts in a way a "war on terror" never could. Maybe it's our secular shibboleth in the West.
Incidentally, Hillary's comments are in my opinion yet more proof that she's fit to be the Democrats' candidate in 2008, and that barring a Republican nomination of John McCain, the former First Lady is unbeatable.